26 April 2007

Rain in April: Poetry Edition

Although some of my esteemed colleagues have celebrated April as National Poetry Month, I have been remiss in doing so. I keep meaning to, but time is always short, and on top of that, my taste in poetry, like my sense of fashion, is sorely lacking in a number of ways.

But it's raining today, and that brings to mind a couple of poems that I simply must share. The first is what might possibly be the first major poem in modern English, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Here are the first 18 lines of the prologue:
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
Then, of course, there's always my man T.S. Eliot, who wrote that wonderful account of the crisis of modernity, The Waste Land. It, too, begins with an account of April's showers, albeit a much bleaker one:
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
So, whether you're feeling Eliotish or Chaucery, I hope you have a good day, and if you're someplace near rain, may it inspire you to think good thoughts.

21 April 2007

I have been tagged...

And not in the urban way (with spraypaint). My old friend, Evil Bender, has bought into the meme, and so, I suppose, must I.

Why Do I Blog?

Not surprisingly (if you know me, anyway), that's not a question with a short answer (very few are). I have therefore divided this into a few different subsections for easier comprehension.

The Sites

I began blogging before it was awesome to do so: 1999, to be exact. At first, my blog was just a regularly updated, old-fashioned HTML page on my university personal site. I would sometimes link to stuff from Something Awful, where I used to be a goon before memberships cost money. After a while, I added The Onion and Fark to my list of frequently linked sites. This was when I had spare time.

As I became busier with singing, working, writing, and other pursuits, I moved my online persona to a series of forums where I was also a moderator (the one for The Collegian, for example). I was a beta user on Blogger during my junior year, but I quickly gave it up with the addition of more duties in the college honors program and at the newspaper.

I found more time again when I served a stint at a small mission school in Arizona, but my roommate hooked me up with a subdomain of his site. After I moved, I ran out of time again upon beginning grad school, and I didn't begin blogging again until just last year.

Why I Started Again

I got another job in journalism, and that made me start thinking about national and world news items. My natural response was to add my own opinions. This was helped along by my learning that Evil Bender had begun a blog. I shared many of his views, but not others, and I thought my blog might make a nice counterpoint to his sometimes. A few other old friends, Marshwiggle, little.hoot.owl, and Gye Nyame, also had blogs, so the medium served the dual purpose of letting me catch up with them again, at least in some very limited manner. As an added bonus, I've gotten to meet some really cool new virtual friends like The Lizard Queen in the process.

My Subject Matter

Not an easy thing to describe. I'm sometimes political, but more often just ridiculous. I've made attempts at a more-or-less creative blog, with limited success. At the moment, I'm in a state of flux in my life; I'm about to graduate, and with that comes much instability. I really don't know if I'll continue after moving past school or not. Part of me wants to, but another part wants to cut the online cord completely. Already, I've added somethingawful.com, fark.com, and theonion.com to my list of blocked sites in my Hosts file on my home computer, and I can honestly say I haven't missed them at all. So maybe I'll eventually add Blogger to the list? I really don't know.

Above all, my online philosophy is that I really don't have anything to say that hasn't been said a hundred times by clearer and more eloquent writers, so what I write doesn't especially matter. I don't know how true that is, but it seems like a pretty logical and realistic approach. It helps me not to have dashed hopes, anyway.

If I must tag someone new, I guess I'll tag Marshwiggle, little.hoot.owl, and Gye Nyame.

20 April 2007

And another one bites the dust...

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

The Mexican golden boy of the Bush administration is about to be gone, by all accounts. His dismal performance before the Senate has convinced everyone -- even Arlen Specter -- that he needs to be fired for being a terrible liar. The Toronto Globe and Mail has the story:
U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales, President George W. Bush's long-time friend and trusted legal adviser, was clinging to his job yesterday after failing to persuade skeptical senators that he wasn't lying.
One can't help but wonder why so many members of our upstanding Christian president's staff end up getting in trouble for lying like sociopaths.

18 April 2007

I have no words worth describing this...

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

I'm trying to think of something to say about this indescribable thing, but I'm failing miserably. Go to the site, see the video, and weep.

(The squirrel's name is apparently MC Nuts.)

16 April 2007

The Perils of the Information Age

This Associated Press article should serve as a warning to those who would argue that new technology is inarguably superior to what came before:
The state Mental Health Department agreed to pay a Los Angeles hotel $877 million in 2005 to hold a two-day training conference, according to state records. $877 million? For a two-day conference?

It's wrong -- not even close. The actual contract was $36,200 and the agency spent only about $21,000, invoices show.

Inclusion of the dramatically higher amount in a vast computerized index of state contracts was an honest mistake, the result of a worker typing a billing code where the contract's value should have been listed, officials say. An attempted fix created a duplicate listing, leading to confusion rather than clarity.

Those problems point to a larger issue: The database set up to provide a window into how California spends billions of taxpayer dollars is badly flawed. The inventory of tens of thousands of contracts and purchases is littered with typographical errors and jargon, undercut by omissions and weakened by uncertainty over what gets listed, when and by whom, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. ...

Indeed, big mistakes can occur with a missed keyboard stoke and there is no comprehensive way for General Services to find and correct them. The agency says the responsibility for accuracy rests with each state department, in what amounts to an "honor system."

"DGS clearly would not be able to tell that there is 100 percent compliance unless we monitored and double-checked each of those hundreds of thousands of entries," spokesman Bill Branch said.

There isn't anything close to 100 percent compliance, AP found while reviewing entries on thousands of contracts.

For example, computer records show in September 2004 the Conservation Department agreed to pay $32,000 to Arrow Restaurant Equipment for a coffee maker. The department has no record of such a deal.

That's because it wasn't a Conservation Department contract. It was the Sierra Conservation Center, a unit of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. And it wasn't for one coffee maker, but 20 commercial-sized machines.
As I have argued before, technology cannot be inherently good or evil, efficient or inefficient. There certainly can be technologies that are less conducive to efficiency, as well as technologies that are more useful for people with immoral actions in mind, but the technology is only so efficient, good, and useful as its operators are.

Indeed, in some ways, this database technology is more dangerous than the systems that preceded it; a single slip of the finger can result in disastrously high or low figures being recorded in the state's budget (or at least estimates designed to help determine the budget).

I see this in a part-time technology-based job I have, too -- people constantly make small mistakes that they never would have the opportunity to make if they were working with hard copies.

No, I'm not a technophobe, but I think it's pretty clear that the information age is not without its pitfalls. And human fallibility almost guarantees that we those pitfalls will get a lot of use, regardless of how important accuracy is. Quality-control programs can only help so much...

Never before have so many minimum-wage workers been able to screw up so much by doing so little wrong.

12 April 2007

Stem Cell Followup

There were a couple of interesting responses to my last post; I'll post Marshwiggle's here, along with some of my thoughts on the issues he raises.

Please note Bush's support for the alternative bill using adult stem cell research before condemning him as antiscientific. In the meantime, please point out one cure that embryonic research has been able to accomplish that adult cells have not?

You may have a point about fertility clinics. Perhaps the prolife movement can address that after the abortion clinic problem is taken care of. :) In the meantime, the idea of growing humans for body parts, especially children/embryos that have no say in the matter is surely raising troubling morality issues for you?
The problem with old tissue is that it often is not nearly as flexible as new tissue. That's why relying solely on adult stem cells is somewhat problematic. Besides, to dismiss a readily available source for research -- particularly when the "murder," if it is one, has already been committed by perfectly legal fertility clinics -- seems a bit short-sighted to me.

It also was not my intention to declare all-out jihad on fertility clinics; I think EB has a good point when he observes:
In the end, fertility clinics are a moral good because they let the infertile have children. Letting embryos be wasted when they could be saving lives seems like a political move designed to appease the base, not any real morality or science.
As for showing you progress of the research on adult vs. embryonic stem cells, I'm afraid that I don't know enough about the matter to do so. But I would remark that embryonic stem cell research is bound to be at least six years behind adult stem cell research, for obvious political reasons, so perhaps it isn't fair to call for such evidence yet (and, indeed, won't be until scientists are allowed to investigate the question).

If I thought what was happening was, in fact, growing humans for body parts, I would have some fairly substantial objections to it. But I don't necessarily think that, for the reason I stated above: Any "murder," if there is one, is over and done with (legally, I might add) long before researchers become involved. And, as EB observes, there is perhaps room to argue over whether there was a murder in the first place:
I think most people recognize that calling the combination of a sperm and egg, frozen and perpetually waiting for a womb or to be thrown out--to call that small group of cells a person is problematic.

Given the complete inability for those cells to become a human being without a womb, I would argue that at very least humanity can't start until successful implantation in the uterus.
I'm not saying I want to abort as many fetuses as possible and then use their tissue for devious scientific experiments on raising the dead and so forth. I do, however, think we should give embryonic stem cell research much more open-minded consideration than we currently are.

It's also worth noting that the number of senators who approve of such research is steadily growing and is now only four votes away from what is needed to override a veto (yesterday's vote was 63-34). If that trend continues, or if an embryonic research-friendly prez is elected in 2008, I suppose the overwhelming voice of public opinion will make this a moot discussion.

Congress and Stem Cells

The Senate struck a blow for science yesterday, albeit a futile one:
In a largely symbolic act, the Senate voted Wednesday to lift restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. President Bush has vowed to veto the measure, as he did last year, and backers acknowledged they don't have the votes to override him.
I don't really understand the objections that lawmakers have to embryonic stem cell research, especially since it would use embryos that are created by fertility clinics and then not implanted. It seems wasteful not to do research on them.

Speaking of which, why don't conservatives speak out more often against fertility clinics, if they really are convinced that life begins at conception? Wouldn't that mean that fertility clinics are guiltier of orchestrating mass slaughter than abortion clinics are? After all, abortion clinics don't actively create embryos that they know will never develop and be born, whereas fertility clinics must do that. Eh.

04 April 2007

In Case You Were Wondering...

The exam this morning went really, really well, and now my brain is tired.

I skipped Beowulf and spent the afternoon snuggling and napping with my sweetie.

Life is sunshine and bunnies today.