Sick, that is. Well, I am anyway. I am currently sitting at home, wishing my stomach would stop doing an impression of medieval trebuchets and keep something down for a few minutes here and there. Needless to say, I am not at work. Which actually kind of sucks, for two reasons. Reason one: I feel awful. That should be reason enough, come to think of it. Reason two: This means that I will have worked five days out of the past ten business days, and that assumes I make it into work tomorrow, which at the current time is a bit of an assumption my part. Last weekend a funeral, the weekend before a wedding, and now I'm sick. Yay.
I made it into Harrisburg last night around 10:15, after a rather uneventful flight. I wound up going through Detroit instead of Dulles due to a delay in Nashville, but I got there, so it's all good.
People here are in pretty good spirits. I was worried that things would be pretty bad, but they're not. I guess when someone dies after a long illness it can be as much a relief as a loss. True, they're gone, but in some sense they had been for a while, and everyone has had time to deal with that.
I'm going to be pretty busy these next few days. Today we're having a family dinner at my folk's place, so my brother and I are going to be out and about making that happen. The viewing is tomorrow night in Wilmington, DE, where my mom grew up and my grandparents lived until last year. The funeral is Monday morning. I fly home on Tuesday.
Waking up this morning I experienced something that reminded me of what it was like living here. The power was out. This seems to happen with depressing regularity for some reason or another.
I fly out of Nashville at 5:52PM local time, arriving at Harrisburg by about 10:30PM. I'll be back on Tuesday, getting into Nashville shortly after 4PM.
What a day. Productive, I suppose, but...eh. I left work a little early to take care of some things: getting the car titled, etc. The I headed up the mountain to check in on the ex. Bad idea. Just... yeah, a bad idea. That pretty much shot what emotional reserves I had built up over the past few days. Then I get home for the evening, and I get a call from my mom.
My grandfather died of brain cancer at about 6:15PM tonight. I'll probably be heading home tomorrow.
Life progresses. Work is good, or at least having work is good.
I ran across this article on TCS today, which points out a rather interesting notion: obesity rates are inversely proportional to income. Oddly enough, it's the poor that are getting fat, not the rich. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to be fat. Why is this? The article suggests that "wealthier individuals tend to take a bigger responsibility for their health and bodies," a suggestion that rings true. Poorer people are also more likely to consume cheap food, which tends to be unhealthy and come in larger quantities than more expensive fare.
Okay, it's not that profound, but it's all I've got for the moment.
I just got back inside after being evacuated from the building. Apparently the Blue Cross office elsewhere in the building received a bomb threat, resulting in mass exodus. Yay.
I now present another excerpt from the list I linked to last time:
"I am not allowed to bum cigarettes off of anyone under twelve."
Last weekend I drove to PA for a wedding. The eldest daughter of a family that I grew up with got hitched on Saturday. The trip was kind of hectic, since my mom went in for unplanned minor surgery on Friday afternoon, and I wound up visiting both sets of grandparents. But it was good. And now I'm back in Chattavegas.
I leave you with this list, entitled "The 213 Things Skippy Is No Longer Allowed To Do In the US Army". My current favorites: "I am not authorized to initiate jihad," "Not allowed to add 'In accordance with the prophacy' to the end of answers I give to a question an officer asks me," and "If one soldier has a 2nd Lt bar on his uniform, and I have an E-4 on mine, it means he outranks me. It does not mean ‘I have been promoted three more times than you'"
Matt Drudge is reporting that allegations have arisen concerning a possible extra-marital affair on the part of Democratic front-runner John Kerry. This, it seems, why Dean remains in the race after failing to win a single state in the past few weeks, and why he has become "increasingly aggressive" towards Kerry in the recent past. What fun this could turn out to be.
In other news, Israeli police have come up with a little bit of genius: place bags of pig lard on public busses to deter potential suicide bombers. This is a fantastic idea. The odds of getting into Paradise while ceremonially unclean are somewhat dubious, no?
The New York Times is reporting that someone has developed what is called the "Love Detector", a technological device similar to a polygraph that analyzes voices to detect, well, "love". This is, as I have said, a terrible idea. First of all, one would think that there are, *ahem*, biological methods for "detecting" that kind of thing. You know what I mean. Second, no piece of technology will ever be able to substitute for that gut feeling of whether or not said MOS is into you. Thirdly, being able to tell whether or not said MOS is into you is something of a survival trait, no? So unless we want to start breeding from the shallow end of the gene pool...
Okay, just kidding on that last one. But seriously, this strikes me as a dramatically Bad Thing.
The Weekly Standard has an article by one David Skinner. Normally, I kind of like the Standard, as it tends to sound opinions that I find myself holding, among them the idea that while an eye for quality in culture is a good thing, elitism in culture is generally not. Skinner writes about Sophia Coppela's Lost in Translation with this in mind. And I think he's taking things too far.
Skinner says that Lost wasn't the best film he saw last year. Okay, I can grant him that. He also says it wasn't the best small, independant film he saw last year. I can grant him that too, though it was the best small, independant film that I saw last year. I have a harder time granting him some of his criticisms of the film.
Skinner doesn't seem to like Charlotte's character all that much. "Props like the American actress, her husband's work, a lounge singer's bad taste, though entertaining in themselves as objects of derision, also bring attention to Charlotte's own lack of, well, depth and fine taste." Perhaps. But there's a more charitable way of reading her and Harris' reactions to the things around them than cynicism and elitism. They could really be befuddled, alienated, and, well, lost. Granted, Charlotte is a Yale philosophy grad, so some elitism on her part is probably warranted. But I don't think the fact that she doesn't identify with the other American tourists or her husband's friends (whose idea of a good time is *ahem* "dancing lessons") makes automatically means that she's looking down her nose at them.
Concerning some of the press that surrounded it he said, "It's more than enough to make any good anti-royalist sneer." He asserts that Coppela was "born lucky," being the daughter of Francis Ford, and intimately connected with the inner workings of the film industry. Hard to argue with that one, actually, but there are dynasties for a reason, you know?
But deeper down, Skinner's article seems to be a form of elitism in and of itself. It's the elitism of those who reject the Hollywood elite: "I'm too good to believe your claim that you're too good for me." This gets circular pretty fast.
I say as I have said before: If you haven't seen Lost in Translation, do so. You don't have an excuse anymore, because it's out on DVD. Just because it's made by the cream of the Hollywood crop doesn't mean that it's not a damn fine film. Sometimes the establishment does good work in spite of itself.
It's been a longstanding argument of conservatives that a flat income tax is more just than a graduated one. The idea of a graduated income tax is to place more of the burden of taxation on the rich, so that they pay a greater portion of their income than the other 99% of the country. Well, this does seem to be true, since the top 7% of income earners (those stating $75k or more) paid more than 51% of the income taxes collected by the government in 1992. Things have not changed appreciably since. But the real kicker is that they paid almost all of the capital gains tax, which stands at 20% or 28%, depending on how long you wait to take the gain. That's not as high as the 34% income tax for their bracket, but still higher than the 15-20% that most of us pay.
So if we introduce a flax tax, what's going to happen is that the "rich" (realizing that you only have to earn $75k to be consider such) are going to wind up paying a bit less than they were, as their income is taxed less, but most of the rest of us are going to pay a hell of a lot more. If you earn more than $200k a year, you're probably not getting most of it in cash, which would be taxed at 35%, you're getting a lot of stock and like negotiables, which can only be taxed at capital gains rates. If you earn under $43k, your bracket just jumped from 15% to 20%, and you're paying an additional $1.5-2k. Whee.
So all of you out there arguing for a flat tax, think about it for a bit. In principle, I'm in favor, because I think that there's something appropriate about everying contributing an equal portion of their income. But in practice, you've got to be kidding. The current tax structure would make a flat tax less just than our current setup. The rich are paying most of the taxes in the country. They're already being squeezed. A flat tax wouldn't affect them hardly at all, but would really, really affect the rest of us.
I'm reading Pattern Recognition by William Gibson right now. I came a cross a passage I liked, a commentary on Tommy Hilfiger. The main character is a "coolhunter", a dowser for steet cred, with an almost allergic sensitivity to trademark. The passage goes like this:
"This stuff is simulacra of simulacra of simulacra. A diluted tincture of Ralph Lauren, who had himself diluted the glory days of Brooks Brothers, who themselves had steppend on the product of Jermyn Street and Savile Row, flavoring their ready-to-wear with liberal lashings of polo kit and regimental stripes. But Tommy Hilfiger surely is the null point, the black hole. There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul. Or so she hopes, and doesn't know, but suspects in her heart that this fact is what accounts for his long ubiquity."
I'm not actually allergic to branding like that, but I do avoid having visible marks on the things I wear. I just don't like it.
I got an iPod last week. A 20GB model. I've almost filled it, but I'm leaving a little room for some albums I have yet to rip. That's the good news. The bad news is that my file server crashed and burned a while back. I only found out about it on Saturday because I wanted access to my music for the iPod. So I ganked the drives from the server and installed them in my main box. Things failed to work great. The new drives worked, but in doing so they somehow managed to scramble the partition table on another one of my drives. All the data is there, but I can't get to it just now. It had some pretty valuable data on it too - valuable to me anyway - so that's pretty annoying. I'm messing around with data recovery software right now. I'll probably end up salvaging most of it on other drives, reformating the wonky one, and putting it all back. Bleh. Then, to make matters even more fun, I plugged in a second optical device so I could rip some DVDs. Not a good idea. My IDE expansion card has been flaky for a while, and adding these three devices drove it over the edge. Most of the time my computer will completely hang after about a minute of uptime. At least I hope it's that. Because if it isn't, it means that 5 hard drives, a Zip drive, a DVD and a CD-RW is too much power consumption on top of my CPU and whatnot. And that's bad because they don't make consumer-grade PSU's that run more that the 550w I've already got. I'm hoping I can just trade out the PCI/IDE card and things will be happy. Or maybe I'll just get a clamshell and make a drive or two external. That would work too.
At least I got my iPod stocked before the crap hit the fan...
The essay I linked to in my last post, combined with this one from TCS make for a decently interesting political two-punch. The latter is an exposition of the new political divide, and it makes a heck of a lot of sense. The author, a poli-sci prof at UTexas, manages to express what's been knocking around in the murkier regions of my brain for a year or so. "Left" and "right" don't mean jack anymore: the new spectrum is "libertarian"/"communitarian" (read the article for definitions, they aren't what you think).
Actually, the two articles together make a pretty good case for the argument that the Democratic Party is about to go the way of the Bull Moose. They're no longer relevant. The real discussion is between libertarians and communitarians, a discussion which is currently being waged within the two wings of the Republican Party. The Democrats need to either get a life and pick a relevant position or kindly shut up.
...is something I'm generally pretty good at. I basically know what I want, and usually have a fairly clear idea of how to get there. I can prioritize activities and make decisions that tend to get me what I want.
I'm sure by now that all of you have heard about the already infamous Jackson-Timberlake "incident" that happened during the half-time show yesterday. Well, TiVo is reporting that that second or two of television has provoked "the biggest spike in audience reaction TiVo has ever measured". Umm.
It's after midnight. The punks downstairs have decided to host Covenant's traditional semesterly "Puerto Rican Dance Party". This means that incredibly shitty dance music has been blasting up the stairs for about the last four hours. I want to go to freaking bed. I mean, I understand having a party and all, but once it gets past, say, 11:00, it's time to turn down the tunes and let the rest of the neighborhood get some sleep. I don't care whether or not it's Saturday night: it's damned inconsiderate.