Monday, June 30, 2008

Brain Teaser for the Day

Situation: You have a coworker who hums along with her headphones, sometimes so loudly that it interferes with your headphones.

Difficulty: She's your supervisor.

Difficulty(a): Moving isn't an option.

Pencils up! You have 40 minutes. Begin.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball

Apparently it's all good fun until someone loses an eye. Jon Stewart is being criticized for having the hutzpah -- nay, the gall -- to mock our coming messiah. It's funny (in a "yeah I'm laughing but it's sarcastic" way), because Republicans have put up with seven years of jokes at Bush's expense, a lot of which were more nasty than funny, and when we complained we were told to shrug it off because everybody makes fun of politicians. Then, if someone makes fun of Barack Obama, they've suddenly crossed the line?

Frankly, I've thought Obama was all flash and no substance for a while now (he's nowhere as impressive if he doesn't have a teleprompter in front of him). The Right has been making fun of him since he first appeared on the scene, and we're going to keep right on doing it. I think what makes the difference is that Jon Stewart, someone traditionally thought of as left/center-left, decided to take some pot shots at someone on his own side. It's a fair move, of course; but the Left probably thinks of it as a betrayal. It doesn't fit the narrative, where you don't say anything bad about Obama. In my experience, though, this could seriously come back to bite the true believers: Putting someone on a pedestal only gives them farther to fall.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Praise the Lord and pass the antibiotics

If I sound a little bitter, I apologize. I've got a sister who could very well end up the subject of one of these articles someday.

Another day, another story about a kid dying from a treatable condition because their parents only used prayer for medical conditions.

I don't even know where to start.

I know of nothing in the Bible that says to forgo medical treatment. True, we are supposed to pray and put our trust in Jesus, but that doesn't absolve us of our own responsibilities. If you needed to get your car fixed, you'd take it to the mechanic and pray for God to give him wisdom and skill. You wouldn't lay hands on the hood and command the transmission to be healed in Jesus' name, because cars don't work like that. And, despite what the faith healers will tell you, the human body is a lot like a car. Asking for a healing when there are other completely viable options that you're not trying is like bailing without plugging the hole, or like sitting in the water waiting for someone to save you from drowning when there's a life preserver a few strokes away.

I get very frustrated with magical thinking in general, but I especially dislike magical thinking that works its way into the faith I follow. Prayer without reasonable action isn't faith in God, it's infantilism. You can't just swallow a Jesus pill and wait for Him to make everything better. He's a living being with plans of His own, and those plans include us taking responsibility for ourselves -- and that includes our health. If you're going to skip going to the doctor because you're relying on God to keep you well, you might as well skip eating right and rely on God to keep you thin. What really bugs me is that the kid who died didn't even necessarily need medicine, just a catheter. A tube could have saved his life, but he didn't get it because -- Oh, who knows why. Who knows what goes through these people's minds?

Frankly, this sort of nonsense is worse than the prosperity gospel ("You'll have a good life if you just believe hard enough!" Bah.). I say worse because it's not just people's mental well-being that's on the line. It's their lives. "Consider the lilies," Christ said, not "Go lay out in the meadow and wait for the rain to wash you." Trust is not the same as childish over-reliance. I trust that God will provide for all my needs, but I still go to work every day because that's what grown-ups do.

UPDATE (6/23/08): Back the transmission analogy: It isn't that God couldn't repair the car if He wanted to -- He certainly could, just as He does with the human body. But insisting that He fix it for you instead of giving it a go yourself -- especially if the tools and expertise are available -- is not only infantile, it's selfish. You might as well stomp your feet and hold your breath until you turn blue when He doesn't do it. In short, it's magic vs. miracles: The latter needs intervention. The former demands it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quote of the day, and some thoughts

From the daily e-mail newsletter at the major Midwestern newspaper where I work: "I can assure you, if we play our cards right, we can win. We have a unique trump card -- our businesses are built on deeply rooted values with the honest aim of building better societies." - Tomas Brunegard, CEO, the Stampen Group, in his remarks to the 1,800 participants - - representing 113 countries - - attending the 61st World Newspaper Congress held in Göteborg, Sweden earlier this month. His address was titled 'Newspapers: A Multi-Media, Growth Business'

Funny: I thought our business was built on reporting the news.

I wonder if he rolls little steel balls in his hands when he gets nervous

I recently finished reading "The Caine Mutiny" by Herman Wouk (which I highly recommend, even and especially if you've already seen the movie*). In the book, one of Commander Queeg's recurring behaviors was his tendency to dole out blame and censure -- this-is-an-outrage-, this-behavior-should-never-be-tolerated-type stuff -- until someone pointed out that he himself was guilty of or responsible for the offense in question. When this occurred, he would always backpedal like mad and reverse his position -- "can't be tolerated" would become "well, everybody does it, and I don't see where it's such a big deal in the first place, hey? Nudge wink nudge."

Now, with the above information in mind, read this article on Pajamas Media: Obama's Beltway Boys. The money quote, in (mostly) Obama's own words:

Barack Obama has spared no criticism about his opponents’ coziness with lobbyists and specifically with Hillary Clinton’s employ of Mark Penn, a lobbyist representing a trade deal which Clinton opposed. But now that his appointee to vet his vice presidential picks, James Johnson, has been exposed as a Washington insider extraordinaire and the recipient of discounted loans through Countrywide Financial Corp. he reaction is quite different, and frankly bizarre. A press conference Tuesday morning went like this, according to an ABC news report:

"Well, look," Obama said, "the, the, I mean - first of all I am not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages, so you’re going to have to direct — "

"But shouldn’t you?" asked Miller.

"Well, no," Obama said. "It becomes sort of a, um, I mean, this is a game that can be played - everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships — I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters. I mean, at some point, you know, we just asked people to do their assignments.

"Jim Johnson has a very discrete task," Obama continued, "as does Eric Holder, and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates. They are performing that job well, it’s a volunteer, unpaid position. And they are giving me information and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I want to select as a vice presidential candidate.

"So this - you know, these aren’t folks who are working for me," Obama said. "They’re not people you know who I have assigned to a job in a future administration and, you know, ultimately my assumption is that, you know, this is a discrete task that they’re going to performing for me over the next two months."
First of all, since when is helping pick a VP "tangential"? Second, this is coming from a guy who wants to be president of the United States? I wouldn't trust him with the presidency of a Girl Scout Troop. His entire campaign is based around telling people what they want to hear, not about telling them what's really going on, and it seems like it's rapidly coming back to bite him hard. Liberia would have him for lunch, let alone Ahmadinejad. I may not trust John McCain any farther than I can throw him, but he gets a lot more air time than Barack Obama.

*The movie does a really great job, but there's about four times more story in the book that simply couldn't fit in a feature film. If you tried to film the whole thing you'd end up with a 10-hour miniseries on Masterpiece Theatre (which would be awesome).

Monday, June 09, 2008

An Open Letter To The Software I Use at Work and the Servers It Runs On

To Whom It May Concern:

I hate you so hard it's not even funny. Please make an attempt to work with a modicum of consistency.

Sincerely, Joanna

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A thought on the nominees

Now that Barack Obama has been confirmed as the nominee for the Democratic Party, the field has been officially narrowed down to two choices: him and John McCain. I don't trust either of them farther than I can throw them, but it's a different sort of distrust. I get the feeling that if someone tried to cross John McCain, he'd go after them hard, but with a grinning sort of glee that only respect for one's opponent can bring. If you bested him in a fight, I get the feeling he'd shake your hand. He'd still cut your brake lines later, but it would be a battle of equals.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, strikes me as the sort who would go after you, your family and everyone you know, all the while sadly commenting on the lingering racism that still taints this country. If you bested him in a fight, he'd claim you won because of white privilege or something, not because you were a legitimate opponent. Then he'd cut your brake lines and claim he was doing it for a better tomorrow. In other words, he's a coward and cheat.

The long and the short of is that I'd rather have someone who knows the score than someone who tries to take down the scoreboard. John McCain might well stab you in the back, but he'd look you in the eye while he did it.

I hope that last line makes sense. It did to me.

I'll take awesomeness for $200, Alex

Tomorrow morning I leave for Chicago, where I will spend the night so I can audition for Jeopardy! at 9 a.m. local time Friday morning. Woo! More later. There's a lot of emotional complications with this trip that I don't feel comfortable going into right now.