Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Site updates

I changed the title of the blog back; "Atlas Yawned" was witty, but it just wasn't really me. Also, this serves as a wonderful example of the "memory hole" phenomenon: if something gets changed on the Internet and no one mentions it, only the people who have been paying close attention are likely to notice it. Everyone else just has a nagging feeling for a few minutes that something is different, but it's a feeling that is quickly squashed because it's too much work to go digging through search engine caches. There have been several times over the past few years when reputable news organizations have fiddled with their Web sites and either buried the note about the correction or just not mentioned it at all. A prime example was CNN on the occasion of Yassir Arafat's death. For about 45 minutes they ran an obit graphic with his smiling ugly mug and Princess Di-type calligraphy. After that it was gone, replaced with a much more prosaic, non-take-sides-ish graphic. I saved the first graphic on my old computer, but much to my regret I didn't get a screenshot. Suffice it to say that there've been many times since when I wished I had--namely, when my profs started yammering on about how the MSM is more fair and balanced than bloggers.

On a totally unrelated note:

Did you ever have a moment where you just had to sit back, sigh a little and admit to yourself that although you had failed at something, it didn't make you a failure?

If you're wondering, let me just put it this way: I'm not good at school. I never have been. I don't mean that I don't understand the material or that I can't learn; far from it. I've always been a sponge for knowledge. But it takes concious effort for me to maintain passing grades. Lately I've been having a bout of the I'm-not-good-enoughs, and I don't entirely know what's causing it. All I know is that for the first time in my life, I'm stepping out into the world and actually taking responsibility, and it's killing me. I can't wait until I get out of school.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A quick test

This is just a little something inspired by a doodle I saw at work the other day. The doodle showed President Bush as Hitler.

Okay. If you don't think that Bush is as bad as Hitler, raise your right hand. If you do think he's as bad as Hitler, raise your left hand.

Okay, if you raised your right hand, you can put it back down. You're done. If you raised your left hand, I want you to extend it in front of you, palm up. Don't worry; it's not a trick. If you're wearing long sleeves, push your left sleeve up to the elbow. Now, keeping your arm in front of you, palm up, look down at your arm.

Do you see numbers there?

No?

Then shut up.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Emeth's cousin

If you don't understand the title, don't worry--it's sort of an inside joke.

The mayor of T'All Afar, the city that was Zarqawi's headquarters until the 3rd Armored moved in, has written a letter of gratitude to the men and women of that regiment. A brief sample:

In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful
To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.
Let it never be said that we shouldn't be over there.

Also, I have to wonder if the Muslims in Europe screaming for Shari'a have ever actually lived under it. You know, like the trust-fund kids over here who say we should all convert to communism and frolic under the trees by the blue, blue river all day long. Freakin' Eloi.

Anyway. Man was never meant to live under a system--any system--where strict rules are enforced with physical violence, one half of the population is treated better than the other, and there is no room to break the rules unless you're a member of the ruling class. It didn't work in the USSR, it didn't work in Afghanistan and it sure as heck wouldn't work here. Nor, I like to think, would it in Europe. Hopefully, there would be enough spine-advantaged people to stand up to that sort of cultural bullying and put a stop to it before it got started. Totalitarian systems are like termites: it's easier to keep them out of your house than it is to get rid of them once they've moved in. Sure, pre-emptive measures are a pain, but I'd rather spend my Saturday spraying my foundation than risk losing my house for lack of action. And I think the people of T'All Afar would agree with me.

Hat tips to LGF and The Mudville Gazette.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Good grief

Via Fark (which, thank God, has taken the pr0n links off its front page): A woman in Staffordshire, England, found what appears to be a small dead octopus in her garden drain. Now, the story itself is kinda cool (how'd it get there, anyway?), but what really gets me are the comments at the end of the article. Two women (I have no idea how old they are), agree that because the woman let her nine-year-old son get the slimy thing out of the drain instead of doing it herself, she should be reported to social services. Excuse me, but . . .

Are they insane?

He's nine years old. He probably loves to play with slimy stuff. He wants to take it to school and show it around, even. His mother didn't deliberately expose him to something dangerous, so what's the problem? I know a woman whose sister used to put whiskey in her kids' formula to make them go to sleep. That is worthy of calling the authorities. Fishing a dead mollusk out of a storm drain is nothing by comparison.

Besides (and this is going to sound callous, but I promise it isn't), how are kids ever going to learn to explore their world and be adventurous if we always keep them away from anything that might be dangerous? I'm not talking about letting them play with lighters, here; I mean what's wrong with teeter-totters and swings and good old-fashioned monkey bars? Next thing you know they'll ban trees because kids can fall out of those. There are schools that actually banned running on the playground because somebody might get hurt. You know what? Getting hurt playing is a pivotal part of growing up! It teaches that actions have consequences, that pain is a fact of life and that a bloody nose isn't the end of the world. Why do you think kids are so resilient? They're designed for hard knocks!

If these ladies think that letting a nine-year-old take care of something slimy is worthy of a visit from social services, I hate to imagine what they'd think of the parents who let their kids--gasp!--camp out in the back yard all night! And climb trees! And explore down by the creek! And all without supervision! Egads! The danger!

Guess what? They'll live.
Geez.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Quick Note

Just a quick post to note a quick change. "Ready, Fire, Aim, Apologize" is a bit bulky for a site name, so I moved it down to the subhead in favor of the shorter, more elegant "Atlas Yawned."

Besides, I think "Atlas Yawned" better fits my general philosophy that I'm not important, so nobody's going to notice me unless I give them a reason to. Which is why, by the way, I don't worry about government intrusion anymore.

Life is good when you know you're insignificant. :-)

Update: Yeah, okay, I know I'm not insignificant. But the point is that I'm just one person among some 250 million, and the chances of me getting into trouble without doing something big first are pretty slim. I look at it this way: if the government is the nucleus, than I'm just an electron. And atoms have lots of electrons, and they all blend in with each other. I'm not too worried. I know I'm important; it's just not the kind of important that this world would like me to think it is.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Boy, am I glad to finally see something like this. For those who can't follow the link, it's a Web site set up by "a group of Arab and Muslim youth" to apologize for the rioting and general mayhem that's been going on. They admit that the cartoons are incendiary, insulting and very abrasive[,]" but they also acknowledge Jylland-Posten's right to publish what they wish within the bounds of a free society.

In my essay/rant about racism, I talked about how a person's race matters less to me than their behavior. I would like to add that I view religion the same way. The important thing to me is the other person's willingness to respect my rights as an individual to live my life as I please, provided that my actions do not infringe upon the rights of others. I try to offer everyone around me that same respect. But there is no inalienable right not to be offended. If something you say offends me, I have no more right to burn down your house or beat you in an alley than I would under any other circumstances (threats to my personal well-being excluded). The same applies in the opposite situation. Being able to take offense without resorting to violence or vengeance is part of being an adult, and it applies to any culture.

So thank you, whoever you are, for writing that letter. I hope that in the future, more will follow your commendable example. Kudos.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I swear to God, if I hear one more person talking about how the Western governments are the problem, I'm going to scream.

If any government goes full-bore totalitarian in the next 20 years, rest assured, it WILL NOT be run by the guys on our side. I'm sick of this "The Establishment is the enemy!" business. Speaking in terms of the big picture, you have much, much more to fear from Iran or Pakistan or Syria or Saudi Arabia than you do from the United States. The very fact that people like Al Gore and John Kerry are still alive and kicking and holding prominent public positions speaks volumes about the differences between the West and the Middle East. In Egypt, up until their last election, if you tried to run against the incumbent they threw you in jail. In Iran, if you run a blog that cricizes the government, you can be arrested. In Saudi Arabia, if you're a girl fleeing a burning building and you don't have your headscarf on, the religious police, fully sanctioned by the government, will push you back in the building to die in flames. Yeah, America's got problems. But so help me, they're not the problems a lot of people seem to think they are.

Look at the results, people! RESULTS!

And here's a paraphrased Jimmy Fallon to tell you what you did!

Okay, let's go over this one last time:

Some cartoonists drew caricatures of Mohammed.

This offended you.

So you rioted.

That's what you did.

Oh, and by the way: images of Mohammed are nothing new. You can even buy posters of Mohammed in Iran.* I think they're just mad because the Danes aren't knuckling under like they wanted. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's something deeply wrong with a culture that immediately tries to destroy everything it doesn't agree with. And don't give me that crap about "Well, the US invades coutries it doesn't agree with!" People's lives were on the line. Nobody's going to get hurt because some artists drew a cartoon.

Unless, you know, it's the artists themselves.

*Doesn't he look girly in that picture?

Politics and Redirected Rage

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Burka.

I've refrained from commenting on the whole Danish cartoon flap until now, mostly because all the good stuff has already been said. But I figure: What the heck, it's been a few days. Time to put my two cents in.

Answer me this: why did they wait so long to protest? These cartoons came out in, what, October? Why did it take so long for the Muslims to raise a stink? LGF has a link to one theory: that it took so long to get the protests started because the Islamists needed time to set them up.

The author of the piece, Charles Moore, wonders where all the Danish flags came from, and just how much stoking the imams had to do before the crowds were sufficiently riled. They did their work well: protestors in various countries carried signs with messages such as "This is the beginning of the end you disbelievers", "Get ready for the real Holocaust" (carried by a veiled woman) and "Behead those who insult Islam" (my personal favorite). And of course, let's not forget what happened to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria. (Hint: it invovled fire. Lots of it.)

Why did they react this way? An excellent question.

Something I've noticed about Muslim cultures is that, when compared to Western (or Judeo-Christian) cultures, it is remarkably infantile and self-centered. For instance: in a documentary about Bangladeshi women who started their own businesses, one woman's husband said that he liked it because (and this is a rough quote) "Before, I had to give her my money from work. But now, I can do what I want with my money." This man had at least five or six children to care for, and he still thought of his income as solely his. There was no partnership, no selfless giving, no sacrifice for his wife and family. It was all about him. I have seen this pattern repeated in various contexts throughout the Muslim world.

Now, to connect a couple dots here, people who are very self-centered tend to be emotionally immature and hyper-sensitive, seeing criticism where there is none and taking general criticisms personally. If you've ever worked or lived with someone like this, then you know what I mean. An example: You address your coworkers and tell them that the breakroom has been kinda dirty lately. The emotional infant in your midst immediately snaps back with a line like, "Hey, I clean up my messes!" Or if you do criticize them personally, they give you the silent treatment for a week and pour saltwater on your potted plants. If someone joshes them at the office party, they leave in huff, highly insulted. They do this because they feel unconfident, unimportant and weak. Because they already feel so low, they are unable to handle criticism or teasing in a calm, mature manner.

Enter the Muslim. Arab culture has for centuries been notoriously rooted in shame and the honor system, and as Islam spread, so did this attitude. Today, it remains strongest in the Middle East (including Pakistan) and Africa and, by default, European communities of immigrants from these areas. Their entire culture is emotionally immature, responding to criticism with an endless litany of what amount to playground insults: "Am not!" "I know you are, but what am I?" "Take it back, or I'll hit you!" Only in this case, "I'll hit you" translates to "I'll kill your family and burn down your house with you in it." But for Muslims, this has proved to be a surprisingly effective tactic. They've learned that whoever screams the loudest gets his way.

To continue the playground metaphor, let's say that you called Jimmy a doo-doo head. He immediately begins to cry and scream that you're mean; never mind the fact that you called him that because he hit your sister. You get a lecture on name-calling and a stint in time-out, and Jimmy goes back and hits your sister again. Only this time, you don't do anything about it because you don't want to get in trouble. The monitor won't do anything about Johnny. He comes from a broken home, you see, and your dad fired his dad so it's really not his fault that he hit your sister. You shouldn't call him names. What does all this have to do with Danish cartoonists? Everything.

If we (the rational West) continue to allow a few screaming, flag-burning crowds to curb our speech, pretty soon they'll be saying that we can't criticize them at all, even if they deserve it.

Rolling Stone recently ran a cover photo of Kanye West with a crown of thorns a la Jesus. If Christians behaved the way Muslims are behaving now, they wouldn't have dared to publish it, which is why you won't be seeing Eminem as Muhammed any time soon. Ed Driscoll (via La Shawn Barber) pretty much nails it:

Remember all the riots, looting and torching when Dogma and The Last Temptation of Christ played at your local multiplex?

Me neither.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Teh Funnay

The Fark headline: "Stone Age man found frozen in Alps may have been world's first computer science major."

The actual headline.

World Ends; film at eleven

This is reason #2 why I don't watch TV news anymore. (Be sure to check out parts 1 & 2.)

Reason #1 is that I'm tired of the emotional manipulation. All the evening newscasts try their hardest to hit you in the gut and draw you in, and that's not what I want from a news outlet. I want the news, dag nabbit, not a summer blockbuster! If you can't report something without having a fancy moving graphic to back you up, then maybe you should consider a career change!

My breaking point came when CNN (yes, them again) ran a commercial about how you could trust them not to scare you with hyperbole and overblown dangers. Then they ran an ad for their upcoming special about bird flu. It was called something like "Ducks of DEATH--The Unknown Dangers!"

That's when I gave up.

Update: something I wanted to add but forgot until just now: on the show "Family Guy," they had the male news anchor sitting in his dressing room, saying, "This just in: the president has been shot." Then he gets even more serious and says "Good evening. The president . . . is dead." And then he puts on a perky face and says "What's the president doing in this casket? We'll tell you after the break."

I literally fell over laughing at that one.

The urban wasteland isn't really.

I'm listening to Coldplay and reading old James Lileks columns, which is a lethal combination for someone who enjoys both history and human behavior. I got to the old Bleats by doing a search for "Lileks Roosevelt Hotel" on Yahoo. I'm going to be staying at the Roosevelt for a few days in March, when the newspaper editors (myself included, natch) go to a college journalism conference at said accomodation. I'm very excited; I've always loved cities, from the downtown areas with their sky-high stone and steel to the residential areas that run a little farther out. There's just something about being surrounded by the possiblity of people that appeals to me; my rapidly decreasing shyness is proving to me that I do, if fact, like people. I especially enjoy walking around cities by myself or, at the most, with one other person who doesn't want to talk too much. I love to look up at the empty windows of apartments and wonder who lived there before and who lives there now, and will I live there in the future? It's a good thing I'm going to work for a newspaper--such a job almost necessitates that I live in a relatively urban area.

I like being able to walk down the sidewalk and greet my neighbors; I like walking to the store. When I was a kid, I lived a tiny little mobile home park full of retirees and a couple families with kids (none of whom liked me very much). I was homeschooled, so I didn't get out much, and we lived much too far from town to do anything but drive. When I read books about kids who walked to school and hung out with their friends at the soda shop, I envied them. I wanted to walk to school. I wanted to get out more. I needed space. Of course, I couldn't put it into words at the time; it wasn't until I had a dorm room to myself in college that I realized how much I enjoyed living alone, within walking distance of everything. I'm very urban that way. I walked everywhere for three years, and only took the bus when I needed something from Wal-Mart. And now I have my own apartment with (mostly) liveable roommates, and I have enough space. I'd kill for a car, though. I'm burning out on public transportation.

But when I grow up, I want to be a trendy city-dweller. I want to have a small apartment with one wall in each room painted a solid color, and coordinated curtains hung in every window. I want stylish furniture and stylish clothes, and on Saturdays, I want to walk down to the grocery a few streets from my building and buy foreign cheese packed in oil and herbs to make appetizers for the little get-together I'm having the next weekend.

But more than that, I want to live someplace where I'm within an easy distance of my friends. I want to be a regular at a coffee shop, have lunch with the same people three times a week, and know that as I walk through the proverbial glass canyons that somewhere within that echoing expanse of humanity are people I care about, and who care about me. And I don't want to have to drive to see them.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Filler post (to prove I'm not dead)

"Atlas Yawns."

I don't really have anything to say about that; I just thought it would be a really cool name for a blog. Or a rock band. Take your pick.

I watched the SOTU address last night with the College Republicans, and boy was it a breath of fresh air. I even got one of those silicon bracelets that says "Proud Republican."

I thought President Bush did a pretty good job with the speech; he flubbed a few words, but I'll take sincerity over a silver tongue any day. I especially liked what he said about the wiretapping--he was right on, in my opinion. The feds aren't going after Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Normal, they're going after Jihad Jihaderson who's been making calls to Hamas and pretending it's his mother on the line when his neighbor shows up unexpectedly. I also liked when he talked about the need to stay the course in Iraq and the camera showed Kerry, who seemed very, very interested in his shoes. Oh yeah. Good stuff.