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Week of 27 April 2009

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Monday, 27 April 2009
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10:24 - 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 become available.

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.

So 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.

11:15 - Some stuff you just can't make up. I was scanning the "recommended" discs page on Netflix when I spotted this:


Tuesday, 28 April 2009
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08:38 - 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.


Wednesday, 29 April 2009
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08:26 - 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.

The 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.


Thursday, 30 April 2009
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08:32 - 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.


Friday, 1 May 2009
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09:00 - 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.

But 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.

Until recently, 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.


Saturday, 2 May 2009
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09:45 - 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.

I eventually 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 doing well.

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.


Sunday, 3 May 2009
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09:44 - 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 16th birthday.

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.

Believe 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 anyway.

So 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.

But 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.


Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.