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February 29, 2004

10 Random Tracks

From Nate who got the idea from Ed Hand, ten random songs from my entire MP3 collection set to shuffle:

  1. Penguin Planet (Void Main, there's a story to go with this one, but no album)
  2. I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow (Various, O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack)
  3. Devil Doll (X, More Fun in the New World)
  4. Candy Says - Closet Mix (The Velvet Underground, Peel Slowly and See Volume 4, aka The Velvet Underground)
  5. Adrenaline (Throbbing Gristle, 20 Jazz Funk Greats)
  6. Really Good Photo (Shantel, Higher Than the Funk)
  7. Undertow (REM, New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
  8. Put a Little Love in Your Heart (Leonard Nimoy)
  9. Quasar Superstar (MC Hawking)
  10. The Baby (Shantel, Great Delay)

I don't think pk has an MP3 collection, so we may have to settle on him putting on a blindfold, clawing a sample down off the shelves, and pointing at the case until an assistant can verify that he's pointing at a song.

Posted by mph at 1:12 AM

February 27, 2004

Filthy Lives!

Happy to see a comment on an old entry noting that the Filthy Critic is back in business after hanging it up for a while. Thanks, Rebecca!

Posted by mph at 4:56 PM

February 21, 2004

Roy Gets a New Home

Tomorrow morning Dad and I will drive out to somewhere past Scappoose and deliver Cat Roy to his new home. The presence of a new baby brought some of Roy's previously "almost intolerable" traits to the fore, so we've found him a new home (Roy, that is. We're keeping the baby.)

Fortunately, his new digs will include an owner willing to keep him indoors for a while until he can adjust, then he'll have an outbuilding with some heat to sleep in once he becomes an outdoor cat full time.

Scappoose being well outside my normal ranging, I stuck the coordinates to his new home in ExpertGPS so I could get an aerial view of where I'm headed, and that provided the added relief of noting it's pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. On the phone today, the adopter even told me that if I got lost I'd have to backtrack a mile or so to get back under cellular coverage. If you've got to take a psychotic cat to a new home with a lot of outdoor time in the picture, that seems about the right kind of place to do it.

Posted by mph at 11:20 PM

February 20, 2004

Reasonabling Himself to Death (Updated)

Oh for God's sake, Josh, quit dithering about it: The state has no business discussing marriage or any other "spiritual matter." It has some interest in recognizing the legal prerogatives marriage implies for the sake of helping the courts figure out certain issues (such as what to do when someone's too sick to express their own wishes about their fate and has family and partner pulling in different directions, or who gets your stuff when you die).

Short and sweet? You get married in a church, but you get a civil union license. Period. Any two people who walk through the door at the courthouse get the same slip of paper, and churches marry whom they want when they want based on their individual creeds. If they want to present a faux parchment scroll that has the words "Holy Matrimony" or "Hitched With Mad Vishnu Stylingz" or whatever else, let some old blue-hair with a calligraphy set in the closet draw one up and run it down to Kinko's.

Keeps the state out of the church, keeps the church out of the state.


Update: Josh continues to dither on this issue, responding to readers who proposed the "civil unions for all and let the churches marry whom they will" solution by saying "[...] let's not imagine that the people who oppose gay marriage or gay rights generally aren't going to have any problem with that."

I've never imagined anything other. I'm also very clear on the fact that many "people who oppose [...] gay rights generally" frequently have a problem with the ongoing existence of gays at all. They won't accept any compromise, however reasonable.

Polls show people are much more uncomfortable with "gay marriage" than they are "gays being allowed to participate in legally recognized civil unions." My thought is that the noteworthy disparity between the "anti gay marriage" numbers and the "pro gays in civil unions" numbers is seen, in part, because some people believe "legalizing gay marriage" could mean "mandating churches to perform gay marriages" in a bizarre variant on the kinds of accessibility laws that require wheelchair ramps outside of public buildings.

One of the things that keeps me from giving up and fleeing the country in despair is an ongoing faith that most Americans, when confronted with issues of equity and fairness, respond well when they don't sense coercion or a threat to their own prerogatives. Use the words "special treatment," and the average American almost always responds negatively. Use words that imply equal or universal treatment, and a much more expansive side of our national character comes into play. That expansiveness won't be enough to overcome the loathing for gays that some of the people behind the assorted "defense of marriage" proposals feel, but it's probably enough to capture the vast middle ground that has demonstrated a desire to see the issue resolved equitably, and without a sense that the state is violating the Establishment Clause or perhaps threatening churches with a legal burden to extend a sacrament to people in relationships this church or that deems unfit for that sacrament.

Posted by mph at 7:36 PM


Less time for writing, less will to play echo chamber, and a dollop of constructive laziness have led me to make the blogmarks page a little more developed.

You can get at them via the sidebar, as has been the case for the past month or so, but the stuff driving the blogmark list has been fleshed out enough to make it worth pointing out:

And so the circle is complete. My first regular blogstop lo these many years ago was Robot Wisdom (now, sadly in a state of neglect while Jorn's off working stuff out) which made the post-9/11 warblogger boom seem a little strange to me: My first concept of weblogging was more what people have taken to calling blogmarking or linkrolling or linkfarming. But the "pundit for a day" form is what caught the merry-go-round, and the humble linkfarm had to await rebirth as an adjunct feature once some of the less chatty cathys finally ran out of stuff to carry on about. Plus this approach didn't fit in with Puddingtime!'s layout.

Anyhow: There it is, or not.

Posted by mph at 3:50 PM

February 17, 2004

Daddy's Little Nerd

Some of the fine editors at Jupitermedia were surprised and disappointed to learn that we were not going to be naming Ben "Linux" or "Debian," but Aunt Julie stepped into the breach and made sure he's at least dressing the part.


We're considering putting up an Amazon tip jar to underwrite his tattoo, but we're not sure whether to go with the swirl or the bottle.

Posted by mph at 11:51 PM

February 16, 2004


I'd like to issue a retraction. Last month, I wrote of Trillian, the instant messaging client:

"... the full version of Trillian is a crashy, mean-spirited app that periodically continues to tell the world you're still logged on and available but quietly discards any incoming messages."

That was true, at that point. After about a day of being really irritated that I was out the registration money for the product, I went back and did what I should have done in the first place: I deleted the configuration files from the old, shareware version I had before registration, nuked all the skins, deleted all the plugins, and reinstalled. That did a lot to make the app behave. In fact, it's been ticking along without much trouble since then, allowing me to communicate with my AIM, Jabber, MSN, and Yahoo! contacts pretty much flawlessly. I've added the spellchecking, and mailchecker plugins, and the whole thing is better behaved.

So: If you use a Windows machine for a lot of IM and have contacts on a lot of networks, Trillian's worth a look. There's a good chance the free version will be good enough. If you want a few plugins (like Jabber support, ironically enough), the pay version seems better off than I credited it for the first time around. Just make sure you nuke your old install. No comment on skins under Pro: I don't use them.

Posted by mph at 1:08 PM

The Pitchosphere

Doc Searls commented on "Technorati Bombing," the point of which, according to the person who suggested the practice to Doc, "is to do the equivalent of Google-bombing on the Technorati product list. It's a bit of guerilla promotion, trying to get this book to rise up that list in hopes of people noticing it."

"Google Bombing" is the practice of linking to something enough that it rises in the search engine's results. It can be used as an attempt to give something more notoriety, or it can be used to associate a certain phrase with an unexpected result.

Says Doc:

"I think it's harmless at worst and helpful at best. Why not push good books that aren't bestsellers? There's also a difference between bombing Technorati and bombing Google, just due to the differing natures of what they search and how they search it."

Initially, I was irritated.

For starters, Doc, it's only a "good book" to a finite group unless, like Plato's philosopher, you've shrugged off some sort of perceptual collar on your literary taste and you're calling back to us poor blinkered fools in the cave because you've discovered the pure form of "good book."

I doubt that has happened, but that's nitpicking and it's mostly beside the point.

Doc comes at things from a marketer's perspective, though. He's comfortable and conversant with the clutter of marketplaces. Like most marketing people, he's got an extrovert's view of the world or he's mastered the art of adopting one to get on with his day. To these people, multiple and loud inputs are all part of a day's work. Given any commons, be it virtual or physical, marketers devote themselves to trafficking in noise, ensuring they're heard above other marketer's noise, and making sure you think their noise is virtuous. Some of them even tell themselves that they're playing a vital role by ensuring that you hear this very important message from their sponsors.

So here's less of an answer than a perspective for Doc to consider:

People asked me if a new baby was going to make me feel confined or crowded. After all, infants don't really make it easy to get out much. The answer has been a consistent "nope."

It's true that going very far is a bit more of a production than it used to be. Things have to be timed with feeding schedules and the overall state of preparedness on the part of the parents. Some days an attempt to push the stroller down to the Mexican place on Hawthorne to grab something to go devolves into Alison rocking Ben in his bouncy chair while I pour reheated alfredo sauce over some tortellini I grabbed on a quick trip out. But to someone who's comfortable in his own home and less comfortable with cluttered sidewalks, a half-mile stretch of street where every corner has a gaggle of Greenpeace petitioners, panhandlers, or people hawking bead jewelry from a blanket, being inside isn't bad. Less inputs to deal with, less noise, less clutter.

To someone who's a functioning introvert, the noise and clamor of a commons filled with people making a pitch isn't invigorating. It's uncomfortable and even seems a little hostile. "Out there," everyone's making a pitch: They might be trying to sell stuff for money, they might be trying to enlist support for their cause, they might just be holding out a hand for spare change with a story they've used three times in the past week, or they might be wearing flashy clothes and bad cologne because they're selling themselves to potential mates. But it's all intrusive, and it all involves a demand to be noticed at least momentarily. I'm not as bad off as people who have anxiety attacks when confronted with the overload, but "going out" involves a conscious effort to put aside feelings of being hassled by loud cell-phone talkers, stinky cologne wearers, sales people, and canvassers, all of whom have in common one thing: Selling something, even if it's just themselves.

A quick study in pop psychology might peg me as a latent agoraphobe, but I'm pretty sure it's not the public spaces that are bothering me. I like being out along Portland's waterfront, for instance, and I enjoy walks through nearby parks. It's Pitch Culture that irritates me. I get itchy when someone tries to make me their mark. And when you go out in public, someone's trying to make you their mark as soon as your feet hit the sidewalk.

Assorted *-bombing is another sales job, another pitch, another come-on. The author's well-intentioned friend is making a pitch (with the best of intentions, but it's still a pitch) and the people who think it's fun to pile on and harmlessly push a book up are pitching themselves as being people of influence, even if it's in a vanishingly small microcosm. The only response from people less willing to turn their backs on yet another part of the world handed over to the cult of marketing is to pitch back. Up goes the noise level, and yet another commons is turned into a place that can be about anything at all but happens to be about people selling stuff. The small chance you had of "just hearing about something" is out the window because someone's making a concerted effort to "generate buzz."

If you want some evidence of this dynamic in action, there's a recent NYT article about authors pseudonymously reviewing their own books and enlisting friends to review their books on Amazon. It's definitely tempting. My co-author on my one and only book admitted that one of our more scurrilous Amazon reviews probably came from someone he'd been bickering with. The negative review stands out (it's the one thing the last person I pointed to Amazon noticed in a small group of generally positive reviews), and it's tempting to come up with a pseudonym and try to balance him out. So far I've avoided the temptation.

Months and months ago, I wrote of Google-bombers and others "[..] they've subverted a search engine people liked because it was meritocratic about information, and made it about themselves and their narcissism."

Doc's behavior, and the behavior of people like him, hasn't really changed since then. Doc thinks the book he and others are Technorati-bombing is a good book, so naturally it's fine to game a system to make sure you know about it, too.

Doc says the practice is different from Googlebombing, and I'll go along with that. It's more like when spammers exploit your trust with seemingly friendly subject lines like "Hi!" and "About that conversation we had..." Only instead of making you leery of what you read in your inbox, his behavior should make you leery of whatever you come across on Technorati. It wasn't the result of conversations on a parkbench between friends. It got there because someone went out and rounded up a gang to make a lot of noise and make damn good and sure you noticed it.

Like I said, initially I was irritated. More reflection has led me to feel resigned. As Ed commented the last time I took this up:

"It's much easier to hope that people link honestly and responsibly than to actually check which pages are worthwhile and which aren't. But that ease comes with a price. Fallibility. Hackability. Gameability."

And we continue to pay.

Posted by mph at 12:07 PM

February 15, 2004

Snappy, Meet Jeff Lebowski.

I'm glad someone's still got the energy to link to A-list silliness, mainly because I've given up. The most savage attack is deflected with an almost majestic obliviousness.

Snappy must be from the East Coast, where people expect to eventually get a reaction from repeated provocations, even if it's just a mean put-down and disinvitation to all the best parties. Our more infuriating West Coast approach involves smiling benignly and allowing as how you've probably got a point, even if you've just called us "evil." We might call you "dude," and we'll definitely continue to smile benignly until you sink into sobbing exhaustion, beating your tiny little fists against our smooth, patchouli-smelling chests.

If California and Oregon ever merge into one state, its motto will have to be "That's just, like, your opinion, man."

Posted by mph at 3:43 PM

The Emperor Norton of the Great SCO War

This is another one of those "shoulda been a blogmark," but it cheered me immensely to remember the special madness you find out there in Linuxland sometimes. In this case, it's an Open Letter to Darl McBride, CEO of The SCO Group from someone who's worked on the Linux kernel.

The SCO issue, if you're at all curious about the ins and outs of the Unix world, has been with us for about a year now [Enterprise Unix Roundup roundup of relevant columns: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] and it's had the miraculous effect of actually eclipsing Microsoft as the object of maximum loathing in the Linux world.

The letter pleases me to no end because, as near as I can figure, the guy writing the open letter has no authority to speak for anyone at all. He's just adopted a Royal We (as opposed to my editorial "we" in each week's EUR, which actually seems to keep me sounding reasonable) and laid out "terms" by which the CEO of SCO can save himself from, I don't know what, fiery death or something. The terms of the "truce" he's proposing don't involve him (or the community he presumes to speak for) doing anything at all except telling SCO to quit doing what it's been doing for the past year.

Open letters are part of a grand Linux tradition wherein assorted self-identified "chieftains and philosopher princes" write angry threats or condescending, self-aggrandizing blandishments, less for the benefit of the recipient than everybody else in earshot. I'm not sure if anyone can point to one of these open letters ever accomplishing anything, but they seem to provide a useful vent for energy that could be wasted making stuff and doing things.

Thankfully, he's licensed the work under a generous variant of the Creative Commons license, which gives me the freedom to reuse his work to offer a similar truce to the City of Portland, which I believe to be in violation of my airspace. I'll be sending my demands off to them on Tuesday. Provided they respect a three-block radius around my house and take my word for it when I tell them the screams the neighbors have reported mean nothing at all, they'll get off light. Otherwise, they're gonna have Us to answer to. And I think we all know we don't want to mess with Us.

Posted by mph at 3:05 PM

February 14, 2004

Peeking Through Other Peoples' Windows

I was looking on Google for information about swaddling a baby, perhaps with too general a query, since one of the top hits involved this excerpt:

"... I rolled around ecstatically on my bed, luxuriating in the sticky plastic swaddling my body and the tightness of my ropes. ... My hogtie was just too tight. ... "

I don't think "sticky" was one of Dr. Karp's "Five S's."

We've been getting more and more of these looks from the little dude lately. We've taken to calling them "proto-smiles," since they aren't in reaction to much we can discern outside, perhaps, "all is right in the world." And I'm trying not to pay attention to milestones ahead of their arrival. I suspect we'll know the first "social smile" when we see it.

Posted by mph at 4:56 PM

Smaller Than a Breadbox, Pretty Much

Part of the Palm legend lovingly told and retold among PDA enthusiasts is the way inventor Jeff Hawkins carried around a block of wood in his shirt pocket to ensure the form factor was just right. Indeed, I'd say my own Tungsten E is pleasant because it's still svelte. Not quite as tiny and light as my late, lamented Visor Edge, but without the nasty habit of frying in its own heat because all the bits are too closely wedged together; and definitely sleeker than the Visor Deluxe that mostly just worked for two or three years and probably still would today.

All of those devices have one thing in common: They can fit in pants pockets if needed and always fit in a breast pocket without being too lumpy or bulgey. I like that about them, and it's why I'm mystified by this... thing:


It's billed as a PDA case that actually comes with a shoulder strap. At 7x6x5 inches, it's larger than a cube made of dollar bills. And it's bright red.

Just cue Ogre yelling "Neeeeeerrrrrds!" and get it over with.

Posted by mph at 11:31 AM

February 12, 2004

People Considered Harmful

Ed's over on his blog coping with a reaction to escaped markup in XML documents which is, evidently, bad.

That, in turn, puts me in mind of a similar plaint from Sam, and the recent subject of a blogmark, wherein an author, inspired by the recent arrival of Atom still wet and dripping from the womb, says "this is our one chance as a community to get the format right from the beginning, and not force readers to have to work around bad feeds."

Right. Quick aside: You're wondering how you, as a reader, have ever had to work around a bad feed and if it was wrong or bad of you to do so. The writer's referring to software, so breathe easy. If you have the nagging need to blame somebody for some wrongdoing anyhow, blame me for making you read this poorly formed page.

Then there's the next paragraph:

"Just as an aside, here's my Atom feed. It's the default MovableType Atom feed (I think), so it may not be valid, but the folks at SixApart are usually pretty good about keeping their stuff valid."

So, even someone who realizes that the web is a trash-strewn wasteland of junk code written sloppily and forgiven too readily by friendly parsers turns around and says "Here's something I found laying around and put up on the web. I don't know if it's valid, or if it will work, or even if it really came from a trusted authority. I'm taking the issue on faith. I can assume no responsibility if you turn a pesky validator loose on it and it comes up wrong. But 'Yay, standards! Standards good!' I think I ate my paste."

It seems clear to me that the energies of assorted standards advocates would be better directed if they simply set out to ensure that no one is ever, ever lazy, stupid, confused, short-sighted, trusting, or ignorant ever again. What a well-formed world that will be!

Meanwhile, while the monks debate how many web developers it takes to suck all the air out of a room, the issue of standards compliance becomes a sick joke among "normal people," who know that anything they do will be met with outright hostility by the standards scolds and so stop bothering to do anything at all to keep up.

Why should they bother?

They've passed through a vale of withering scorn by daring to commit something to a page. If they make a half-hearted attempt to make sure it satisfies the specifications, dutifully checking things out with a validator, they'll get to avoid the hostility and skip straight to the mechanical equivalent of a mirthless, condescending smile. But they aren't going away, they're not going to quit putting up web pages, and they're just getting more and more sullen and disdainful of the entire process, which leads them to do much worse than making the authors of XML parsers work harder: They're ignoring basic issues (with apologies to Sam) of usability and accessibility because the whole thing's a word salad falling out of the mouths of people with preposterous emotional modulation issues.

P.S. Is it just me, or does the "Atom Enabled" logo look for all the world like it belongs on a team jersey in Rollerball?

Posted by mph at 5:07 PM

February 9, 2004

President Disappears, Suit Takes Questions

Here's a heavily linked Claim/Fact breakdown of Bush's appearance on Meet the Press Sunday, from the Center for American Progress (via Salon).

In terms of his political appeal, I no longer claim any ability to interpret/predict how people will respond to the man. I thought Bush held his own in speaking to his base. Like his State of the Union speech, I thought everything he said was either meaningless fluff, hysterical fear-mongering, or breathtaking nonsense, but I figured people who didn't already think that wouldn't think it now. Given the fact that he had to know he wouldn't be having this particular sit-down if his ass wasn't crackling over the campfire, he seemed self-confident and comfortable, and he said all the stuff he had to say, or the only stuff he could say, about his pre-war (lack of) intelligence, his splotchy Guard record, and his budget of sand and fog.

On his Guard record (and, lookit, after eight years of bumperstickers calling Clinton a "draft-dodger," I for one am not going to leave Bush's Guard record alone), Bush hauled out a big set piece allowing as to how he wasn't going to sit there and listen to anyone making fun of the National Guard, because a lot of fine people have served in the National Guard, and if you don't think the National Guard is a Real Armed Service, then you don't know anything about the National Guard. He flew planes, you know. In a "squadron," with a cool name like "Freedom Squadron" or something. If any black-jammied VC had creeped on Galveston in a sampan, George W. Bush's "Freedom Squadron" would have been ready. You know, if he was around.

(Monday morning on NPR, Cokie Roberts gave us all what seemed like a little finger-wagging for caring about the AWOL issue at this late date. I think a lot of Americans are hearing about this for the first time, or paying attention to it for the first time because, as he ceaselessy reminded us, Bush is a War President now. During the summer and fall of 2000, we weren't at war, and Bush seemed reassuringly disinterested in getting into one, but now he seems alarmingly interested in never getting out of this one, so his military record kinda sorta matters now. It's a Character Issue. And his records would stop mattering really quickly if it were easier to suss out exactly what they tell us. As it is, there's a big gap in his reports, and there's only one torn half of one document to defend his record against the recollections of officers who would have been his commanders, but don't recall that he ever showed up and saluted.)

Anyway, stylistically, I figured Bush appealed to whoever he's always appealed to. It does seem like he's been watching a lot of The 700 Club--he really acts like Pat Robertson, smiling weirdly, as if to indicate sad, condescending amusement at anyone who doesn't agree with what's coming out of his mouth. ("Because you and I know they're going to Hell, don't we?") People respond to the kind of reckless self-assurance that comes from a lifetime of privilege and party-crashing. They take it for "leadership." No one could be that sure of himself and be wrong, right?

But the surprising buzz is that lots of conservatives were apparently chagrined at his performance. Peggy Noonan tried to be as gentle as possible ("it's OK--it happens to lots of men"), but she said he looked tired and unprepared and some other things that to me he always looks like. Andrew Sullivan was already really upset about the gay marriage thing--but now he can't believe how uninformed Bush is on fiscal policy! Which lots of conservatives are getting antsy about, although not because Bush has given the Treasury keys to the rich, but because he's spending too much money on children and spaceships.

So what's new? I mean, "That's my Bush," right? But these reactions are not about what went on inside the Oval Office Saturday afternoon, they're about the world outside: Bush's poll numbers are dropping like the February temperature.

It really should be obvious, since we've been hearing so much about it lately. Come on, don't you recognize the the dissatisfaction, the cranky second-guessing, the buyer's remorse? The Republicans are having Electability Issues! You think the Democrats are worried about John Kerry? Look who the Republicans are stuck with!

The illusion of Bush as a competent, responsible leader with a sound vision for our future only ever had substance because people wanted, maybe even needed, to believe it. Now people are starting to disbelieve it, despite his appeals to the fears that bound them to him, and President Bush is fading before our eyes.

p.s. See the NY Times book reviews for Fareed Zakaria's thoughtful and fair review of Richard Perle and David Frum's recent book, "Battling the Booger-Men," or whatever it's called.

Posted by pk at 7:15 PM

February 8, 2004

Our Family Transportation Infrastructure

I'm not precisely clear on whether this thing is for pushing a baby around the neighborhood or carting fissionables to their undisclosed locations under the desert:

It's the Graco® LiteRider™ LXI, a 'lightweight convenience stroller' that conveniently interoperates with the Graco® SnugRide® infant car seat, which snaps into place providing a second layer of armor in the event of ambush.

On its own, it's a stroller. Rubber wheels, folds up, very handy. I think it'll even fit in the Saturn trunk. With the SnugRide® deployed, the two canopies on each device manage to meet when folded all the way out, forming a bio-dome complete with observation port.

It also comes with a drink holder, a mini glove compartment, variable height handle, and a mesh cargo net.

All I can say is that the many, many $6 Million Man toys and accessories I had prepared me for this day pretty adequately. No, Ben doesn't come with a special suction cup arm or pop-off chest plate that reveals bionic modules underneath, but most of the accessories we can get for him seem to.

Posted by mph at 3:09 PM

February 5, 2004

Defense of Marriage

Bush Expected to Endorse Amendment on Marriage

If this discriminatory amendment is ever tacked onto the U.S. Constitution, I think I'll talk to my wife about turning our marriage into a civil union, because at that point whatever "sanctity" marriage holds will be gone. It will no longer be a framework within which I'll wish to honor her or raise our child.

Why, in the year 2004, is the President of the United States talking about supporting a Constitutional amendment abridging the civil rights of people simply for being as God or Nature created them? This is fundamentally wrong, affecting principles far more significant than simply the right of persons of the same sex to marry.

Let's be very clear: Homosexuality is a naturally occurring orientation. People who don't believe that are mistaken. Why should this country's agenda reflect the ignorance and bigotry of its most backward, narrow-minded citizens?

Why are these people so blind to the fact that the more inclusive they make the institution of marriage, the stronger and more "sanctified" it will be--along with our families, our communities, and our country?

Why must we tiptoe around their delicate sensibilities, sexual squeamishness, and primitive morality while they trample and abrogate the privacy and civil rights of others?

I hope that whoever takes up our side of this debate--i.e., the Democratic nominee--is able to strike the right note of authority and patronization that will gently convince the supporters of such an amendment that they are wrong. These meaningless wedge issues make me furious.

"Tonight I call for this Congress to pass a law against people putting broomsticks up their asses."
"We wholeheartedly support the president's call for a law against people putting broomsticks up their asses!"
"With all due respect, with so many more pressing problems, it hardly seems necessary to legislate against people putting broomsticks up their asses."
"Senator, are you saying you're in FAVOR of people putting broomsticks up their asses?!"
"Certainly not; no reasonable person would advocate--"
"Then why do you oppose the No Broomsticks Up Your Ass Act?"
"I simply believe it's not--"

The irony of such an amendment is that its "positive" effects would only ever be symbolic. Would it lower divorce rates? Would it make fathers stay home? Would it make giddy teenagers or drunken adults less likely to leap before they look? Would it end abuse, adultery, or domestic indifference? No, because neither church nor state will ever perfect the formula that produces healthy, responsible individuals who grow up and get married at the right time, in their right mind, to the right person, for the right reasons. Some marriages work out, some don't, and the government can no more "sanctify" a marriage license than a driver's license.

Only in its negative impact would such an amendment be effective. Healthy, responsible individuals of a certain orientation would be prevented from entering, with society's blessing, the personal arrangement that many people agree is the one most likely--though of course not guaranteed--to produce healthy, responsible individuals. If marriage were walled off from such people--and that injustice was recognized by other, accepted people--it would become a mean, exclusive country club, a drinking fountain that says "Whites Only," and an ever-increasing number of people would leave it behind for good.

Straight moderates need to recognize that we have a stake in this fight and not be driven to the sidelines by the false moral certainty of a loud minority. Marriage will never be a perfect institution, but it deserves better than this. For that matter, so does America.

Posted by pk at 10:51 AM

February 3, 2004

Movie "Yay!"


"Henry Fool" is on DVD!

I should have blogmarked this, but it's a red letter day for me. Definitely "above the fold" news. News to me, anyhow.

Posted by mph at 10:44 AM

February 1, 2004


The neighbors are having a Superbowl party. Very considerate about letting us know it would happen and inviting us over for a beer. One of the guests has a habit of letting out a full-throated roar of excitement about once every three minutes.


It seems one of the guests is getting punched in the groin every three minutes.

We've got a comments section.... someone please verify the game is that good.

Posted by mph at 4:53 PM