Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. The day we honor those soldiers who have died at war. Mike H over at LIB wrote up a nice post explaining what Memorial Day is all about. I'm not going to dispute any of that. Rather, I'd like to wax philosophical for a moment; instead of asking "What?" I am going to ask "Why?" None of this is to demean anything Mike or any other soldier has done. Again, I am not challenging the what, only the why.

From the Veteran's Affairs Canada-
Why Remember?

We must remember. If we do not, the sacrifice of those one hundred thousand Canadian lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with our collective national consciousness; our future is their monument.

Why do we celebrate Memorial Day? Why do we feel the need to honor fallen soldiers? Isn't this just a way of glorifying war? By saying that the greatest thing a man can do is to die for his country, we are encouraging men to do the same. We are perpetuating this cycle of war, of death.

Did the soldiers of past wars die hoping that their deaths would inspire others to go to war? Or did they hope they would be the last?

I know the saying: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But do we still need to memorialize war? Is is an unchangeable, unending part of humanity? Should it be celebrated, or viewed as a deplorable last resort? Is this Sparta? Or is it just madness?


Title Missing

Today, May 25, is National Missing Children's Day.

May 25, 2007 marks the 25th National Missing Children’s Day. First proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan and observed by every administration since, May 25th is the anniversary of the day in 1979 when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school...The widespread attention brought to his case and those of others eventually led to a nationwide commitment to help locate and recover missing children. National Missing Children’s Day honors this commitment by reminding parents, guardians, and other trusted-adult role models to make child safety a priority.
-from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids.

Recently, 3 year old Madeleine McCann went missing while she and her family were vacationing in Portugal. You may recognize her photo, as the case got a huge amount of publicity, and she has a weird, keyhole eye. Unfortunately, though the media would have you believe that only one or two children go missing each year, the US Department of Justice reported that 797,500 children are reported missing every year. That's over 2000 a day, just in the US, and sadly, not all are cute little white girls.


False Idols

The American Idol finale is finally upon us. Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis will perform tonight and the finale results will be announced tomorrow. If you want a fawning review by someone who has bought in to the whole American Idol crap, go check out Althouse.
There will be none of that here.

American Idol is helping to destroy music. It is a summation of all that is wrong with popular music. It is the paradigm of style over substance.

Those who make music can be divided into two groups: performers, and those who actually create the music, the composers, the songwriters. Music today only focuses on the performers, and mostly on how they look on stage or in a music video. Unfortunately, music is entirely auditory. Sure, Fergie might be nice to look at, but hearing "My Humps" on the radio makes my soul retract. The market is oversaturated with singers who got record deals because of their attractiveness, who put out garbage which gets put on the radio by industry execs who know that the average listener has no taste and will buy whatever they are told is popular.

Oh, the irony of people who can not judge music for themselves voting on which singer is better.

Singers (do not call them artists) are overrated. If someone reads prose really well, the credit goes to the author of the prose. If the prose was bad, then the reader is just ignored. Music should be no different. No one knows, or cares, who first performed Wagner's Ring Cycle, or Shakespeare's King Lear. The works are remembered because of their merits, as are the men who created them. So I take some comfort in knowing that whoever wins (and her name will not rhyme with Blake), they will be forgotten.


Reemergence of the Brood

Unfortunately, this post is not about StarCraft II. There is no release date yet for that game, though I've been waiting a long time and the demo clips on Youtube have gotten me a little excited.

Billions of cicadas are about to hatch in Midwest
. Brood XII, which has spent the last 17 years underground, is expected across northern Illinois, and in parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

Exactly when the cicadas will emerge is a subject of debate, although there is agreement they emerge once the soil temperature is consistently 64 to 65 degrees for several days. Biologists and insect experts predict the cicadas will emerge between Tuesday and June 1.

They are periodical cicadas, which are only found in the eastern half of North America. The annual, or dog-day cicadas, that appear every summer are common around the world.

A single male's shrill courtship call can reach 90 decibels, equivalent to a kitchen blender.

Fortunately, cicadas only live about 30 days, but this still might end up being a long, long month.


Looking Forward

The 06-07 school year is over, so that means it is time to start looking at the 07 college football season.

Is Wisconsin the best team in the Big Ten? It seems strange to see that question on ESPN's homepage, but many are saying yes.
From Mark Schlabach at ESPN:

Wisconsin was very, very good under former coach Barry Alvarez. In his 16 seasons, the Badgers claimed three Big Ten titles and won three Rose Bowls. But under Alvarez's watch, Wisconsin never seemed to be a true national championship contender. Thanks to Alvarez and many of the players he recruited, the Badgers are on the cusp of becoming one of the country's truly elite teams in coach Bret Bielema's second season. The Badgers return nine starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished 12-1 and beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. How good were the Badgers last season? Since they didn't have to play Ohio State and won only one game against a team that won its bowl game, no one exactly knows. With home games against Washington State and Michigan and road games at Penn State and Ohio State, the Badgers will earn their ranking in 2007.

An Overview of all Big Ten teams on ESPN shows why the Badgers are being picked as "the team to beat".

Stewart Mandel's spring power rankings for SI have Wisconsin at #10 in the nation. The best part of these rankings: Notre Dame is nowhere to be found.


Rapier Wit

Recently, the radio show Opie and Anthony got some criticism after a segment where a regular guest, "Homeless Charlie," talked about raping Sec State Condi Rice, First Lady Laura Bush, and the Queen of England. I won't post the clip or transcript, because I do not happen to think it was funny, and I don't think it's content is particularly important to my point I'm making, but the clip is here if you want to listen to it.

Normally, in this case I would quote Voltaire, "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it." Instead, I am actually going to take a pro-rape joke-stance. (Now let's be clear: I do not condone rape.) To me, this is even more than a freedom of speech issue. It is about the freedom to have a sense of humor, the right to laugh at whatever you find funny. I'll let Patrice O'Neal explain. (It's worth watching to see the "Angry Pirate" and the "Donkey Punch" discussed on Fox News.)

I like him. And he's consistent (on Imus, on Richards). And in my opinion, he does know funny, as he says. Though he did try to talk over people far too much on Tough Crowd.

I think is is extremely hypocritical to make a big fuss when someone jokes about raping women, when at least 95% of all rape jokes are about men getting raped.

I think this is funny.

Humor is okay. Failed humor is regrettable, but it doesn't hurt anyone. Jokes do not encourage rape any more than they encourage infanticide. I don't want the world censored. I don't want someone to decide for me what is and is not funny. No topic should be off limits for discussion. Rape humor is okay. Holocaust humor is okay. Much of humor is derived out of that which is painful. How else is this funny?

I wanted to link to some funny rape jokes, but they are surprisingly hard to find through Google. Sarah Silverman has one that goes: “I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”

That one's not that bad. Now, to practice what I preach, I will tell the worst, most offensive joke I know. And it involves rape. And children. Just warning you.


How do you make a little girl cry twice.
Wipe the blood off on her teddy bear.


Rise of the Middle

Will I actually get an 08 Presidential candidate that I can support? Might there be a third-party, centrist, who is a recognized contender?

Howard Fineman of Newsweek says, maybe. He mainly cites the long period of time between the primaries and the actual election, due to the primaries getting moved up.

As a result, there is now a solid chance that we will know the identity of the GOP and Democratic nominees by February 6, 2008, a full seven months before the political party conventions in Minneapolis and Denver, respectively.


There has never been a period like it in presidential campaigning. Nature abhors a vacuum; so does politics. Buyers’ remorse among Republicans and Democrats will have eons of time to set in; independents, as numerous as party loyalists, will have little to do but nurse their dissatisfaction.

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg (R)is mentioned as the most likely candidate to run as an Independent. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) also may run. A post from The Nation discusses a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket.

Clouding things a little is the Unity 08 party, which is trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states. It is an attempt to create bipartisan ticket as a third alternative to the Democrat and Republican candidates. And it has Sam Waterston as it's spokesman (perhaps jealous of L&O costar Thompson).

I would much rather have a nonpartisan ticket than a bipartisan one. Kucinich-Tancredo would not be a centrist option. A true centrist/Independent will completely disassociate himself from both major parties. Otherwise, he'll just be doing what Lieberman did, only he won't win the election. But it is at least an attempt at giving a centrist alternative.

I am certainly hoping that someone runs on a centrist ticket, and it would be great if they could get people to vote for them. However hopeful does not mean optimistic. People are generally afraid of voting outside the major parties [see post below], and I don't know if anyone will be willing to put the time or money into a campaign that will likely lose. Of course, if no one ends up running, there will still be at least one option for those who want to support a centrist candidate.

Self Imposed Political Prisoners

[This is part of a theory I have been developing. I have not published it yet because it is not complete. I decided to piece this together as succinctly as I could as a response to another bloggers post.]

When commenting on the possibility of Hagel running as an Independent, Erik at HP said:

So what would this mean for the 2008 race? Obviously any third-party candidate, while they have no chance of winning, can severely alter the election. Republicans blamed Ross Perot for George Bush's loss in 1992 and Democrats blamed Ralph Nader for Al Gore's loss in 2000. Considering the factions present in the Republican Party, Hagel would ruin the Republicans' chances in this race.

One of my major complaints about American politics is the lack of any real choices. People vote for the popular candidate because they don't think their preferred choice can win. Of course your preferred choice isn't going to win if you won't even vote for them! It's that simple! This is such a simple point that I don't know how to state it any more forcefully. Maybe I should add more exclamations and use all caps. Every time I hear someone say they don't want to waste their vote on a third party candidate, I want to punch them in the face and say, "YOU IDIOT!!! THAT IS A SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY!!!"

Ralph Nader did not cost Gore the 2000 election. Al Gore cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Gore had the opportunity to court the Green Party vote. If the Nader voters really wanted Gore for President, they would have voted Gore for President. Gore lost because not enough people wanted him to win. He lost because he failed to impress enough people to win. To claim anything else is just wrong.

Everyone just accepts that their only options are the two candidates given to them by the main parties. When you only have two candidates, you wind up voting for one because you don't want the other to win. Considering a third (or fourth) option forces you to make a choice as to which is the best. Any time you don't vote for the choice you really want, even if you win, you still lose. I don't claim to have studied any political theory, but this idea of voting to minimize your losses reminds me strongly of the prisoner's dilemma of game theory, though I know it doesn't directly apply in this case. Like the PD, I do think it is possible to learn and adapt new strategies that will result in an optimum solution. But people have got to start thinking for themselves.

The 2008 election does not have to be the Campaign 96: America Flips a Coin from the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror VII.

Homer: America, take a good look at your beloved candidates. They're nothing but hideous space reptiles. [unmasks them]
[audience gasps in terror]
Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
Man1: He's right, this is a two-party system.
Man2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away.
[Kang and Kodos laugh out loud]

The next day, Kodos announces the result: "All hail, President Kang."

The field in front of the Capitol has now become a working ground where humans are whipped by aliens and used to carry materials.

The Simpsons family is working too, with Homer and the kids carrying wood, and Marge pushing a wheelbarrow of cinderblocks -- with Maggie on top.

Marge: I don't understand why we have to build a ray gun to aim at a planet I never even heard of.

Homer: Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.


God Strikes Falwell Dead

RIP Jerry Falwell (1922-2007)

Tributes by CNN, TIME.

I can't say I am real happy with the way Falwell brought Fundamentalism into politics. And he has said some stupid, hateful things. But as Erik said at HP, still death sucks.


A Message from Stampy

Stampy says: Don't forget about the increase in stamp rates.

First-class letters will now cost $0.41. I'll bet Lou Nolan is happy. Whenever they raise the postage, people need the little stamps. Also of note: size matters. So does shape, and thickness. Full details from USPS.

The Forever stamps seem like a good idea. I don't know if I'll be buying any, though. I send less than 5 letters a year, and I still have a ton of $0.37 stamps to use up.


If Someone Wanted To Publish My Blog Entries For Money, I Wouldn't Say No


Brownback Fumbles at WI GOP convention

Not that Brownback had much of a chance to begin with, but this couldn't have helped. Full article on MSNBC.

The Kansas Republican drew boos and groans from the audience at the state Republican Party convention Friday evening when he used a football analogy to talk about the need to rebuild the family.

“This is fundamental blocking and tackling,” he said. “This is your line in football. If you don’t have a line, how many passes can Peyton Manning complete? Greatest quarterback, maybe, in NFL history.”

Realizing what he had said, Brownback slumped at the podium and put his head in his hands as the crowd expressed its displeasure.

“That’s really bad,” he said. “That will go down in history. I apologize.”

His apology brought a smattering of applause and laughter. He tried to recover, saying former Packer Bart Starr may be the greatest of all time, but the crowd was still restless.

“Let’s take Favre then,” Brownback said. “The Packers are great. I’m sorry. How many passes does he complete without a line?”

“All of them!” more than one person yelled from the back.

“I’m not sure how I recover from this,” Brownback said. “My point is we’ve got to rebuild the family. I’ll get off this.”


The Man Purse

President Bush vetoed the last military spending bill passed by Democrat-controlled Congress because it had included target deadlines leading to an end to funding the war in Iraq. CNN reports that he plans to veto the bill under vote in the House that includes similar deadlines, but that he would be open to a bill that had "benchmarks." They report this as if he is offering some sort of a compromise, as if Congressmen should be encouraged at the possibility of reaching an agreement. I have a slightly different opinion.

A deadline is a fixed date that will cut off funding. This idea of a benchmark means absolutely nothing. A bill without fixed deadlines means we will be there until our job there is done (which will be an indefinitely long time). So what should Congress do, faced with a President that won't let them pass the bill they want?


(Now this is not what I want Congress to do, but it is what they should do if they have any stones.)

Normally, when Congress passes a bill, and the President vetoes it, the onus falls back to Congress. If they really want the law made, they need to find a compromise with the President or override his veto. This one is different.

If I offer to give a friend $5, and he says, "No thanks, give me $10 instead," I will say, "Here's $5, you can take it or leave it."

Congress passed their bill authorizing military spending. If Bush wants the funding for our troops in Iraq, he can take it or leave it.

President Bush, as Commander in Chief, gets to decide how to command the military. But Congress has the power of the purse. That doesn't mean they have to be the woman of this relationship. Call it the power of the European carryall if you need to.

Bush should listen to former Sec. Rumsfeld. As you know, you go to war with the budget you have. It's not the budget you might want or wish to have at a later time.

5 Second Opinon

What to do...

The New York Times takes a look at a study completed by Clemson University on the 5-second rule. This study was more in depth than a a similar study done in 2003 by Jillian Clarke (which won a 2004 Ig Noble award), replacing gummi bears and cookies with slices of bologna and bread.

In case you live in a bubble, here is the Wikipedia definition of the the 5-second rule: The rule applies to foods that have fallen to the ground. Normally, customary rules of hygiene dictate that food that has fallen to the ground should be discarded, in order to prevent ingestion of disease-causing agents acquired from the dirty surface. The rule states that if the food is picked up within five seconds, it can still be eaten.

Prof. Paul L. Dawson and his colleagues at Clemson measured how long bacteria could survive on various surfaces, and later placed test food slices onto the surfaces for varying lengths of time, and measured how many live bacteria were transferred to the food. Their bacterium of choice was salmonella; the test surfaces were tile, wood flooring and nylon carpet; and the test foods were slices of bread and bologna.

The results: 24 hours after applying salmonella broth in doses of several million bacteria per square centimeter, "thousands of bacteria per square centimeter had survived on the tile and wood, and tens of thousands on the carpet. Hundreds of salmonella were still alive after 28 days. "On surfaces that had been contaminated eight hours earlier, slices of bologna and bread left for five seconds took up from 150 to 8,000 bacteria. Left for a full minute, slices collected about 10 times more than that from the tile and carpet, though a lower number from the wood."

Mmm... floor cookie...

It appears that the 5-second rule is wrong. Quick retrieval does help limit contamination, but contamination still will occur. Now, do I suggest that you should not eat any food from the floor, as many experts have? No. I say the 5-second rule should be extended to 30 minutes. Ingesting bacteria is natural and good.

From George Carlin's You are all Diseased special:
"What do you think you have an immune system for? It's for killing germs. But it needs practice. It needs germs to practice on... If you kill all the germs around you, and live a completely sterile life, then when germs do come along, you're not going to be prepared. And never mind ordinary germs, what are you going to do when some super virus comes along and turns your vital organs into liquid shit? I'll tell you what you're going to do, you're going to get sick, you're going to die, and you're going to deserve it, 'cause you're fuckin' weak and you've got a fuckin' weak immune system."

Our society has become germ phobic. We try to raise our children in sanitized environments. You can now buy sprays to disinfect your air. Guess what? Rates of asthma and allergies are rising. Anti-biotic resistant "super strains" of diseases are spreading. Thousands are getting sick from e. coli in their food. Our immune systems are not being trained to do what they are supposed to do. If you're worried about getting sick, improve your nutrition. Or you could just live in a plastic bubble, where you only have to worry about Trivial Pursuit typos.

So there you have it. My healthcare plan: eat food off of the floor.

Got to get those last crumbs...



I think they may be going a bit too far to market Spiderman 3.
"They were walking on my eardrums," said Jesse Courtney. "It was real interesting, 'cause, two spiders in my ear -- what next?"

Bats always turn left when exiting a cave.

As if their 22-10 league-leading record wasn't enough reason to go see a Milwaukee Brewers game, there will be one more for today's game against Washington. Doctors will be giving free prostate exams from an RV parked outside Miller Park.
Screenings will take place Rain or Shine, and are free, private and confidential with no appointment necessary. A free pair of tickets to a future Milwaukee Brewers game will be given to the first 50 men who complete the exams as a special thank you. Free parking.
Free Brewers tickets, and a free prostate exam? Sounds like a good deal to me.


Madison Blogger Roundup 2.0

The much awaited Madison Blogger Roundup 2.0 took place tonight. We met at the Terrace, and later moved inside to the Rathskeller where the Roundup changed to more of a rectangle. It was a good opportunity to talk with fellow bloggers, many whom I had never actually met in person. Who says bloggers are anti-social? The topics spanned a wide range, gay rights, the Republican debate, Iraq, Sol Grosskopf, the Dalai Lama (big hitter, the Lama), Mifflin St, dollar coins... I did feel a bit left out by all the College Republicans gossip, which only remound me how low the College Neutrals numbers are. Attending were Brad, Steve, and Mike from LIB, Mark from OotM, Erik from HP, Mike from DFfF, Ryan from MpG, Mark from PI, Hastings from the Post, and Shane from D101 (Why did I choose a name that abbreviates VD?). And there was even a female present. A heartfelt huzzah for those who came, as your presence was appreciated. And to those who did not, SHAME!!!. How can we show that we are better than our Milwaukeean brethren if our higher profile bloggers do not show their solidarity?

Brad now has a recap and pictures up. Erik gives his take and a video on shoes on his site. Mike talks about cows.

I do regret that I did not cover a round tonight. I hope I can make up for this faux pas if we get together next month by bringing a 7lb can of beans for each person who wants to try eating one. Althouse, I know you can't resist the aggregate goodness of 7 pounds (26 servings) of baked beans.

*Added: this was a great observation from Hastings:
"Anyway, observing the underage flight from police--bookended as it was by various remarks re: civil liberties and invasions of privacy WRT to textbook sales, Stalinist cops, etc.--made my evening."


Hey Ma, what's for Dinner?

Reach up your nose, and pick a winner.

It is time once again for the "Greatest two minutes in sports", also known as the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. As I did last year (I was close), I will post my picks here. Scat Daddy, Curin, and Nobiz like Shobiz. Full Odds here. Again, I encourage a one week boycott of Yum! Brands to fight corporate branding of sporting events.
*I didn't get to see the race, but it appears I was way off.

Later tonight, in a much more anticipated event, Oscar de la Hoya will fight undefeated Floyd Mayweather. It seems like it's been forever since there was a fight anyone cared about, so people are looking to this as the Fight to Save Boxing. Mayweather is younger, and is the better boxer, quicker and with a better counter, but I can not root for a guy who calls himself "the 50 Cent of boxing". I've got to go with the Golden Boy in an 8th round KO. Here is another opinion to back me up (warning: try to avoid looking at the picture at top).
*By split decision (115-113, De La Hoya; 116-112, 115-113, Floyd Mayweather) "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather (38-0) becomes the new champion. Not my day.