Around the Web on 12-14-06

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ugh and Yippee! Christmas is only eleven days away! The "ugh" comes from the realization that I have a substantial amount of shopping to do. The "yippee" is for the fact that I'll be reunited with my wife the weekend before.

Blogging may be lighter than usual next week and I will take a week off from blogging as I do every year the following week, so today's roundup may be the last of the year....


Michael Bahr, who has been sweating law school exams since I became aware of his blog, can now append J.D. to his name! Or, as he put it himself, "As Jesus Christ once said, 'It is finished.'"

Move Zig -- er, Chad. For great justice!

Bubblehead has asked us to "set up us the vote" in his quest to win in this year's Weblog Awards.

Friday Night Pig Racin' -- Coming Soon to Katy!

A while back, I ran into this somewhat incoherent news story about a land owner in a suburb of Houston who was basically told to move from land that had been in his family for ages by his new neighbors: a local Moslem association who had just bought adjacent land and decided to build a mosque.

These pigs are subtle weapons, here to show the new neighbors -- the Katy Islamic Association -- they aren't entirely welcome. Tension has been growing in this west Harris County community since September when the Muslim group announced it had purchased 11 acres south of Interstate 10 to build a mosque, school, community center and athletic facilities.

Hard feelings started when Baker met association officials, who, he said, advised him he should move his stone shop.

"They told me it was time for my family to pack up," said Baker, whose family has occupied its land since the early 1800s. "They said a mosque and a marble shop didn't go too good together."

Angered by the perceived insult and aware of Islamic dietary laws banning pork consumption, Baker responded by announcing he would stage weekly pig races on his Muslim neighbors' holiest day of prayer.
Student posts a video from a local newscast about the races.

Swedish Mosque Linked to Terrorism

It galls me that Moslems feel they have any room whatsoever to complain about Baker's pig races (or his marble shop for that matter) when their "houses of worship" so frequently figure in the plotting of murder.

Martin Lindeskog provides us with the latest example of that, from Sweden. According to a Radio Sweden report, "The [U.S.] Treasury also says the 41 year old [terrorism suspect] 'was the uncontested leader of an extremist group centered around' a mosque in the Swedish capital."

Reverse Rejection Letter

Diana Hsieh, who recently celebrated her birthday and whose blog is one of my favorites, has posted a very funny "reverse rejection letter". I re-post it here for the benefit of my wife, who has been following my blog since heading up to Chicago a couple of weeks ago.
Herbert A. Millington
Chair - Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall, Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson's outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Chris L. Jensen
Mrs. Van Horn is applying for medical residencies and I will need a new position some time in the near future as well. This approach should come in quite handy for us. Thank you, Diana!

The "two body problem" has been solved!

Medical Tourism

David Veksler posts on medical tourism and asks, "[W]hy do you think medical procedures are so much cheaper in India? Could medical liability laws and the FDA have something to do with it?"

The "Crimes" of Youth, the Price of "Friends"

Software Nerd has a couple of interesting posts up.

First, he posts on a very stupid type of law being considered in Germany.
In Germany, two state governments have drawn up laws would could criminalize violence against computer game animated characters, if those characters are human-looking.
He thinks these laws won't get passed. I also hear he is thinking about retitling his blog as "PollyannaPundit".

Second, he tells us of a "friendship merchant":
Someone is betting that there are enough people with MySpace pages who want to appear to have "cool" friends so that they can impress others.
Since you can tell your new "friends" what kind of comments to leave, you can bet that a bunch of clueless horn-dog men are going to have pretty women leaving slutty remarks on their sites: Precisely the kinds of remarks that anyone else -- especially the women they hope to impress -- will know couldn't possibly be things actual women would really say! A fool and his money are soon parted.

Selling to Idiots Crowded Field in '06

Just when I thought Software Nerd had found the silliest way to empty one's wallet, I went over to Tim Blair's blog, where I found a post on the following ad:
What do reindeer do when they're not flying around the world delivering presents?

They graze, burp and fart!

Did you know? Together, Santa's nine reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph - produce 3.75 tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution per year.

We guarantee that if you choose to offset the pollution created by Santa's reindeer, we will reduce CO2 pollution by 3.75 tonnes.

You'll receive a certificate and special Carbon Neutral Christmas card confirming that you've made Santa's reindeer Carbon Neutral!
That's seventy five smackers, Australian for a card listing carbon credits to abate nonexistent emissions in order to solve an imaginary crisis. That would be $58.74 down the toilet -- if the purchaser still uses one.

What Went Wrong?

Andy offers his take on Robert Tracinski's still unfinished "What Went Right" series:
I don't know Robert and have not spoken with him about this. But it seems to me what went wrong with Tracinski is that he himself carried rationalistic ideas about Objectivism, discovered his error, and then went empiricist -- dropping principles and focusing no longer on self-detached ideas, but now on unconnected concretes.
He also links to the series, which Tracinski recently made available on the web.

One Man's Journey

I have added a new blog, Galileo Blogs, to my sidebar. Aspects of its author's intellectual journey from religion to reason remind me of my own, especially this part:
The interesting thing about all of it was that throughout my youth (and continuing to this day), I took religion seriously. I listened to what the priest said at mass; I excelled at Sunday school where I was a top student. I was even an altar boy and relished the opportunity to be closer to the "body of Christ" than anyone else, other than the priest.

Taking religion -- i.e., ideas -- seriously appears to be the leitmotif of those who reject the religion under which they are raised.
That last sentence is quite profound. Religion cannot withstand even the slightest modicum of honest, rational inquiry. The fact that heretics have been persecuted throughout the vast majority of human history is a confession, as it were, of this weakness. Furthermore, it serves as evidence that religion actively seeks to snuff out the best within us.

I was luckier in many respects, especially concerning my relatives. My family did not react badly at all when they learned I was no longer religious. In fact, during my agnostic stage, I decided to tell my Dad. He stole my thunder by informing me he was an atheist!

I miss him very much when I remember that conversation.

Solar Tsunami

Bothenook posts video and rightly proclaims, "Now THIS is a tsunami!"

The above quote has been corrected for capitalization, of course. Hee, hee! I haven't done that in a while!

The permalink he mentions is here.

Why End Just Busing?

I like the way Jim Woods put this:
All public schools are inferior, but some are more inferior than others. The other day I listened to part of a C-SPAN program on the Supreme Court case Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, where the public schools intend to "improve" education by using race to determine where a student attends school. Instead of using the governments monopoly on force to impose racism, it is time to recognize that force is not an educational resource. By all means get guns out of the schools, and let us start with the full privatization of education.
Yes. That is true. By the very nature of government, guns are in the public schools whether students can carry them in or not.

Is this a trend?

Two days after I took two quizzes, Grant Jones did the same. Let's see how I did on his....

Same overall result as he on the first one:

You scored as Strong Egoism. Your life is very much guided by the concept of Egoism: You work primarily to promote your own interests.

"I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."

--Ayn Rand

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...

Strong Egoism






Justice (Fairness)




Divine Command








What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with

And on the second one? Also the same overall result!

You scored as Special Ops. Special ops. You're sneaky, tactful, and a loner. You prefer to do your jobs alone, working where you don't come into contact with people. But everyonce in a while you hit it big and are noticed and given fame. Your given the more sensitive problems. You get things done, and do what has to be done.


Special Ops






Support Gunner






Combat Infantry




Which soldier type are you?
created with

How 'bout that?

-- CAV


Grant Jones said...

Great minds think alike, heh!

Grant Jones said...

P.S. Thanks for your around the web review. I always enjoy them.

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, I got the follwoing on the philosophy quiz:

You scored as Existentialism.

Existentialism 100%
Strong Egoism 95%
Hedonism 95%
Justice (Fairness) 90%
Kantianism 50%
Apathy 20%
Utilitarianism 5%
Nihilism 0%
Divine Command 0%

Hmm. I may retake the quiz later and tweak around a bit to see where that came from--probably my usual tendency to take the question differently than the creators intended. (Though that's not to say I don't have an existentialist-ish streak to me.)

Gus Van Horn said...

There weere quite a few questions in the quiz that needed interpretation. I scored something like 40% on "divine command", for example, where you scored 0. I recall a question about my "religious scriptures" which I took as philosophical principles as formulated by Rand, Peikoff, et al. I seem to remember other questions having a religious tinge even though they could legitimately apply not just to followers of a religion, but to adherents of a philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking to my site, and your comments. I like your point that religion has the antidote to itself built in. Just by trying to take the ideas seriously, a thoughtful person ends up becoming a heretic.

Also, congratulations to your father, for being an atheist!

I extended my story to when I was in college and formed an atheist club in this post on Diana Hsieh's site (under the name "Auric"):

Here's to a world where there are no atheists! (Because there are no theists!)

Best regards,
Galileo Blogs

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome, Mr. Blogs!

My Dad would have been very amused by your congratulating him for becoming an atheist. (And just to be clear, he has been gone for long enough that your remark brought a smile to my face.)

I found your comments interesting, and am curious about your experience as a leader of an atheist club. Given how nihilistic so many atheists are, I wonder how that went. (Of course, it could just be that the loudest atheists are the nihilists....)


Anonymous said...

The atheist club had all types as members, but its foundation were a trio of Objectivists, of which I was one, so the club stayed centered on rational topics.

We did attract a polyglot variety of members, though, including at one time a couple of pagans. Also, our meetings frequently featured a couple cultists or members of Christian fundamentalist organizations who would stop by. We would let them say their piece and then it was all versus one in a round-table discussion. At one of those meetings, a Moonie couple came by. Both of them had the "heavenly eyes" I reference in my post. Their eyes had dilated pupils like they were high, but they were just high on Rev. Moon. The guy looked like a used car dealer with a beer belly and his wife was a tall, blond German woman who barely spoke English. They were supposedly personally married by Rev. Moon in one of his huge stadium wedding ceremonies, where he matches strangers to be married in a split second.

We were also visited by Hare Krishna and members of several Christian fundamentalist groups who were quite active on campus. (The campus was in the Bible Belt South in the early 1980s.)

As for the club, we brought an Objectivist to speak twice. Once was the debate on the existence of God, and the other was a lecture entitled, "Creationism: The Voice of the Dark Ages." Both events were standing-room only in auditoriums that held about 500-600 people.

We also regularly published quotes from America's Founding Fathers in the student newspaper that demonstrated their skepticism of religion and Christianity, and their firm support for separation of church and state. It was through those advertisements that we got new members.

Occasionally, we set up a table with literature. It was at one of those tables that I was involuntarily blessed and sprayed with Holy Water. On another occasion, a good looking girl who happened upon our table involuntarily exclaimed, "But atheists don't exist." She learned otherwise.

Another interesting encounter occurred when I wrote a letter to the student newspaper protesting how our posters were frequently ripped down. In the letter I asked, "If your faith is so strong, why do you have to censor us by ripping down our posters? What are you afraid of?"

All in all, the atheist club was an exciting experience. In the early 1980s, Christian fundamentalists were getting very active on our college campus. We enjoyed "raising hell" and showing everyone on campus that Christianity wasn't the only voice on campus.

Gus Van Horn said...

It sounds like you did about as well as could be expected with an atheist club. I am curious, though. You were young, of course, but why not an Objectivist club, if for other reasons? It is doubtless easier to stand for something than merely against something else.

Anonymous said...

Good question. I tried starting an Objectivist club, but couldn't find enough Objectivists. In fact, of the trio I mentioned, I was the only "true" Objectivist, in the sense of remaining one to this day. The others were more properly fans of Ayn Rand.

Times have changed since nearly 25 years ago with regard to Objectivism and the activism of campus clubs. Although the campus I attended had over 30,000 students, I was unable to corral enough people. Of course, I may have found more with more effort. In the end, the atheist club accomplished a lot, and actually brought Objectivist ideas to campus through our speech and debate. Heck, I even found my college sweetheart through the club!

As for your point that advocating something positive is more effective, I entirely agree. If I were a college student today, I would seek to form an Objectivist club, or a club advocating a specific set of rational ideas.

Gus Van Horn said...

You are right about times changing. My grad school was about a fifth of the size of your college and had an Objectivist club. I would bet that it would be quite easy at almost any large school for anyone willing to invest the time and effort to start an Objectivist club.