Week of 27 April 2009
Update: Sunday, 3 May 2009 09:44 -0500
I rejoined Netflix last night. Lately, we've been watching a lot of
DVDs borrowed from friends or the library and stuff we'd recorded
earlier (sometimes years ago). The pickings are getting pretty sparse,
so I decided to get some new stuff to watch. I repopulated my queue,
which currently has about 140 discs in it. Of that, maybe 30 or 40
discs are ones we know we want to watch.
The remainder are
things we want to sample. We'll try one disc and see what we think, but
in the meantime I went ahead and put all of the available discs in my
queue, sometimes several seasons' worth. For example, I suspect I'll
like Penn & Teller's Bullshit! because they're both libertarian
atheists, so I put all six available seasons in the queue. But if for
some reason we watch the first disc and decide it's not worth spending
time on, that's 15 discs I'll delete from the queue.
Some of the
series we know we want--for example, series 4 of Weeds and series 2 of
Californication--aren't available yet, but should be soon. All in all,
Netflix may have six months' worth of stuff we want to watch, after
which I'll unsubscribe and wait six months or so for more stuff to
One trend I noticed long ago is becoming even
more pronounced. Very little of what we want to watch originates on the
broadcast networks. Most of it is from BBC and the cable networks like
HBO and Showtime. With few exceptions, programs on broadcast networks
aren't worth watching at all, and certainly not in broadcast form. For
me, at least, the presence of any commercial interruptions pretty much
destroys a program. A program that I'd rate five stars on DVD is worth
maybe one or two stars in broadcast form with embedded commercials.
Barbara and I have pretty much sworn off watching any program that has
any embedded commercials. We watched the premiere of Joss Whedon's
Dollhouse on network TV because Fox had promised "less commercials", by
which I assumed they meant "fewer commercials". As it turned out, the
number and obnoxiousness of the commercials was so great that we
stopped watching the series. We'll get it on DVD or do without.
- Some stuff you just can't make up. I was scanning the "recommended" discs page on Netflix when I spotted this:
- Who is John Galt? Apparently, I'm not the only one who's noticed that Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is prophetic. Sales have skyrocketed, with 200,000 copies sold so far this year, about the same as the total sales for 2008.
And now Hollywood wants to turn Atlas Shrugged into a movie, which is stupid. You can't shoehorn Atlas Shrugged into a two-hour movie. Heck, it'd probably take two hours just for John Galt's speech. To do Atlas Shrugged right, you'd need about same running time as, say, Upstairs, Downstairs. Call it 80 hours. As to casting, forget about Angelina Jolie for Dagny Taggart. Go with Madeline Zima.
Chrysler is dead. The only question is when the corpse will stop
twitching. I'm sure the Obama administration will pour more good money
after bad into Chrysler in an attempt to save the jobs of auto workers,
whose votes skew heavily Democrat, but it's essentially all over now.
There's talk of a "surgical bankruptcy", whatever that may mean, but
the simple fact is that no one in his right mind is going to buy a
Chrysler product, now or for the foreseeable future. It's pretty hard
to keep a company in business if no one buys its products.
real answer here is and always has been Chapter 7 liquidation, both for
Chrysler and GM. Ford and the other viable car makers are perfectly
capable of building enough vehicles to satisfy what little demand
remains for new vehicles. The unpleasant reality is that the car market
has shrunk and will take many years to return to former levels, if it
ever does. As much as the Obama administration would like to save the
overpaid jobs of every auto worker, that's just not going to happen. A
lot of them are going to end up jobless, as are workers at companies
that supply the car makers. There's nothing at all that can be done to
change that, and throwing money down the UAW rathole can only hurt
in the long term.
With Chrysler and GM both brain-dead, it's
time and past time to turn off the ventilators. Let them go into
liquidation, and make sure the taxpayers are first in line to claim the
proceeds of the sale of any remaining assets. As to the UAW pension and
retiree health care liabilities, they disappear along with everything
else in Chapter 7, and should not be picked up by PBGC. Let the former
auto workers depend on Social Security and Medicare.
- I just read another world-turned-upside-down article on FoxNews. Some college kids have formed a group called Youth for Western Civilization that is being condemned by the Politically Correct because it celebrates Western civilization. FTA:
"A great part of college is definitely meeting
people of different backgrounds, but a multicultural ideology teaches
that we should appreciate things just because they're different from
our culture with no regards to the quality of the culture and that all
cultures are inherently equal," said Trevor Williams, president of
YWC's Vanderbilt chapter. "I absolutely disagree."
He's right, of course, which just makes it worse. Western civilization,
from Greece and Rome onward, are responsible for essentially everything
that is good in the world. All other cultures have contributed
essentially nothing of value. You can thank Western civilization for
everything from art, music, and literature to the rule of law and human
rights to manufacturing to business, accounting, and banking, to
science, medicine, agriculture, technology, engineering, and
mathematics. To the extent that people of other cultures are not still
starving in mud huts, they can thank Western civilization. Not
that they will, of course.
Think about the most important 1,000
or 10,000 inventions made in the last, say, one thousand years. Now
think about what percentage of those inventions originated under
Western civilization. Yep, essentially all of them. Without those Dead
White European Males so hated by the politically correct drones, human
lives would still be nasty, brutish, and short. It's about time that
someone recognizes and celebrates their contributions.
It's never easy when a pet is approaching the end of its life. Our
Border Collie, Duncan, turned 14 years old the first of January. His
rear hips are very bad, but he's still enjoying life, and Barbara and I
refuse to put down a dog for our convenience. So we deal with it,
lifting him when he can't get up on our hardwood floors, which is
literally 50 or more times per day, cleaning up when he knocks
over his food or water bowl or has an accident in the house, and so on.
the last couple of nights have been impossible. Duncan has started
thrashing and panting in the middle of the night. Barbara and I got
almost no sleep Wednesday night. We were hoping that was a one-time
deal, but Duncan started doing it again last night. So we did the only
thing we could think of, and moved him to the hall bathroom across from
my office and shut the door. We put down throw rugs to cover all the
tile and give him traction, which seems to have worked. If he thrashed
and panted during the night, it didn't wake us, and when we went in
this morning to check on him he was sleeping peacefully. In fact, he
still is. He woke up just long enough for Barbara to give him his
morning pills, and then went back to sleep.
Duncan has been doing most of his thrashing during the day and then
sleeping pretty much all night long. Now he's sleeping all day and
thrashing at night. We're hoping this flip to thrashing at night is
temporary, because we really don't want to exile him to the hall
bathroom every night. Nor do we want to put him down as long he's still
enjoying life, which he is. He's still eating and drinking normally,
and even playing ball as best he can.
I know a lot of people
will think Barbara and I are stupid to put ourselves through all this
for the benefit of an elderly dog, but it's payback time for all that
Duncan has given us and done for us in the last 14 years. So we'll just
deal with it as best we can.
Right after I wrote yesterday's entry, I started to take the dogs out
for their morning walk. Duncan was asleep in the hall bathroom and I
couldn't rouse him. For a moment, I actually though he'd died. I was
sitting on the floor petting him when he opened his eyes. I asked him
if he wanted to go out, which would ordinarily result in him scrambling
to get up. He just lay there, although he raised his head. So I helped
him up, but this time it wasn't just his back end that wasn't working.
He was limping badly on his left front leg as well.
got him up and out the front door, carrying him down the steps. I
hooked him to the rope while I walked Malcolm. Ordinarily, Duncan would
make pathetic little yips as he saw me walking away with Malcolm, but
this time he just lay on his side in the grass. I tried to get him to
drink some water, but he wouldn't even do that. At that point, I was
pretty worried. I called Barbara to let her know that Duncan was not
Then I decided to see if I could tempt him with a
beef-flavored chew stick. I sat down in the grass in front of Duncan,
and he never opened his eyes or even twitched. Then I broke off a piece
of the chew stick and held it just in front of his nostrils. After a
moment, his nose twitched and his ears stood up. His eyes opened and he
made a lunge for the chewstick. I fed him the rest of it in small
pieces, after which he drank a little water and flopped back down on
his side. That reassured me. I thought that as long as he's eager
to eat, he's probably going to be okay. I decided just to let him rest
there. He's always happy lying in the grass.
A little while
later, rain was threatening, so I went up carried him up the stairs and
helped him to the hall bathroom, where he flopped. I called Barbara to
let her know that he was doing a lot better than he had been. Then, a
short time later, I was surprised to hear some scrabbling coming from
the hall bathroom. Before I could get up to help Duncan, he came
strolling by the door of my office and into the foyer, where he stood
at the front door waiting to go out. I helped him out the door and down
the stairs. Ordinarily, Duncan can hold his urine for incredibly long
periods. He won't pee until the very last moment before we come back
into the house, because he knows that as soon as he pees his outdoor
interlude is over. This time, he peed immediately and headed for the
front door to go back inside.
From that point forward, he acted
pretty much normally, sleeping most of the time but with an occasional
thrashing episode. I brought him water periodically, and he drank, as
well as eating the treats I brought him. Last night, he was completely
back to normal, eating his full dinner and walking normally when we
took him out after dinner and before bed. He slept all night with only
a couple of interruptions. I slept through the first of those, when he
got stranded and Barbara helped him up. Barbara slept through the
second, when he again got stranded and I helped him up. Today, he's
acting perfectly normal again. I think he just hadn't been feeling well
the last few days. We're very relieved.
Duncan has not only recovered to where he was a few days ago, he's
actually better than he's been in months. According to the vet's
weight/age chart, Duncan is now well over 100 years old in people
years, so we're expecting he'll have good days and bad days, with the
bad days gradually predominating, but he seems to have regained some
ground. It was the same with Kerry, who made it to just short of his
Here's a disturbing court decision.
The teacher in question apparently made many comments that could be
considered critical of religion, but the one they nailed him for was
his reference to Creationism as “religious, superstitious
nonsense”, which is a statement of fact rather than opinion.
Creationism is certainly religious. It says so right here in my
dictionary, and numerous courts have declared Creationism to be a
religious doctrine. The dictionary defines a superstition as a belief
or notion not based on reason or observed knowledge, so Creationism is
definitely superstitious. And Creationism is nonsense. Not only does
Creationism not fit any of the knowledge we have about the physical
universe and living creatures, it directly contradicts much of the
observed data and is therefore falsified by those data. So, Dr. Corbett
has been censured for stating a fact, which is more than unfortunate.
it or not, though, I do have some sympathy for the religious nutters
who object to their children being taught subjects that conflict with
their beliefs. Granted, they are ignorant, deluded fools, but they have
the right to be ignorant, deluded fools and to teach their children to
be the new generation of
ignorant, deluded fools. That is, if not ideal, at least acceptable.
There's not much hope for kids who've grown up with such parents
I think it's time to create a lot more diversity in K-12 education.
Public schools should be only the default option, attended only by
children whose parents who are too lazy or too stupid to choose
another, better option. Parents should have complete freedom to choose
how their children are to be educated, whether that be home schooling,
a private religious school, a private secular school, a co-op school,
or whatever. And none of those options should be under any control by
the government. The fact that a parent chooses a particular school is
sufficient evidence that the school is doing an acceptable job by their
standards, no matter what anyone else thinks. If that school has
students reading bible verses all day long every day, so be it.
such options can't exist without funding, and the state currently
unjustifiably limits school funding to public, government schools. So I
propose a voucher system. Determine how much is currently being spent
per student on public schools--everything, including overhead,
facilities, and so on--and issue vouchers to any parent with children.
Those vouchers could be used to put the student in a public school.
They could also be used to pay tuition at any private school, formal or
informal. Finally, if parents decide to home school, they could simply
cash the vouchers and use them to offset the loss of income from one
parent staying home to teach.
The overall cost of public
education would remain the same, because every student lost by a public
school would take along the funding that would otherwise have gone to
that public school. Public schools would actually have to compete for
students, or they'd go out of business. And private schools would
spring up all over the place, with different focuses to target the
types of parents they want to attract. We'd have private schools that
ranged from formal schools indistinguishable from typical public
schools to small private schools with a teacher on one end of the log
and a student on the other.
We'd also get a lot more for the
public money spent on education. To anyone who argues that some parents
would simply keep the money and do nothing to educate their children,
my response is "so what?" Less money will be wasted that way than is
wasted now, and fewer students will be harmed. Poor students would fare
no worse than they do now. Average students would be much
better served by such a system, and good students would be
immensely better served.
Everyone would be happy, except of course the teachers' unions and the educational bureaucracy. Screw 'em, I say.
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