Monthly Archives: July 2007

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Flag-Waving Everyman, also known as a patriot. You believe in freedom, apple pie, rooting for America at all times, and that God gave us a two-day weekend so we could enjoy football and NASCAR.

Take the quiz at

Fun, but more than a bit silly.

Category: Statehouse

I’m presently 2/3 the way finished with the final Harry Potter book. Here are some thoughts on The Deathly Hallows as well as the rest of the Potter enterprise (absolutely, positively no spoilers).

James Dobson has joined other Christian leaders in denouncing Potter, saying “given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture, it’s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds.” This is the kind of thing that when some Christians see themselves portrayed doing they complain about anti-Christian bias. It’s beyond absurd. It’s the product of little minds that see anyone whose minds might expand beyond their narrow focus as something of a threat. I knew that there were some conservative family groups taking an anti-Potter stand, but I didn’t know that it was people as influential as Mr. Dobson. Good thing for the publisher that Dobson doesn’t seem to actually speak for very many Christians, or else they wouldn’t have such a success on their hands.

As with the other novels, I am actually listening to this via audiobook. The first five were loaned to me by a friend. The sixth, however, had a very different guy reading. I came to discover that I had previously been listening to the British version but had inadvertently switched to the American version for book six. You wouldn’t think that they would need two versions since both readers speak with a British accent, but I guess some of the words are changed up a bit (besides the Philosopher/Sorcerer Stone bit).

Jim Dale, the voice for the American series, has won praise and awards for his work, but Stephen Fry of the UK reading is ridiculously better. Dale does the sinister voices very well, but he has a tendency to make all of the voices sound sinister, even sweet little fifteen year old girl characters. At the very least they sound like 50-year smokers. Fry, on the other hand, has much more balance and his readings for some characters (Luna Lovegood and the House Elves in particular) are simply outstanding. I made sure to track down a British version for the last book.

While ripping and preparing the audio for my Pocket PC, I had to test the various tracks to make sure that they worked. I wasn’t that worried about spoilers because how much can you really learn in five second snippets. A lot, as it turns out, I swear that I stumbled upon one recap scene after another. It went like this (though here I am totally making up the spoilers): FFWD “Sargon has been killed and Voldemort has taken the east castle, Harry, what are we going to do?” FFWD “With Mildred, Hildemas, and Syer all dead, Harry had no idea to whom to turn.” FFWD “You mean Voldemort’s been under the control of Fred Weasley this entire time, Harry?!” FFWD “So the white dove’s clue was that I needed to go to Hogwarts and steal the portrait of Hufflepuff! It’s so clear now!” FFWD “Drat! Drat! Potter has just killed me with the candlestick in the basement!” Voldemort lamented…. anyhow, you get the idea. I know way more than I should having only listened to ten or so chunks of five or ten second tidbits.

A couple logistical things:
Estimation of the magic population
The genetics of magic-users
Ideology and Fictitious Evil Overlords

Category: Theater

A new movie (remaking an old movie and broadway production) is in theaters this week, called “Hairspray.” The plot synopsis given by IMDB is: “Pleasantly plump teenager Tracy Turnblad teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.”Regrettably, though I’m sure the movie’s fun and the musical numbers are entertaining (and it could be one of the first times John Travolta’s actually been watchable in years), I’m not so sure the movie has the right message.

Society’s got a love-hate relationship with body image. On the one hand, the weight/shape standards for women have become increasingly unrealistic; two cases in point would be Marilyn Monroe and Angela Lansbury, who were highly attractive actresses in their time but probably would be considered “fat” by producers today (Monroe was 5′ 5.5″ and around 120 pounds, which is pretty darn healthy but sure ain’t a size 0; the “in-crowd” these days are 5’8 or higher and under 90 pounds).

On the one hand, the film gives the message that a fat girl can still achieve her dreams, get the cute guy, etc. On the other hand, it does nothing to show the girl taking control for herself – regulating what she eats, exercising, showing some self-restraint. And I’m sorry to say that the words “pleasantly plump”, regrettable as it may be, are a euphemism for “a girl who needs some medical help before she develops obese-onset diabetes” in the case of this actress.

For point of reference, my household was not filled with skinny people. My family background is germanic and celtic for the most part; short, relatively plump people. However, even if none of my family will ever fit into small-size clothing, they were all active. My father was very reliable about a morning volleyball group and running; my mother taught aerobics and water aerobics; my grandfather is an organist and trombonist in addition to his own walks; my grandmother (before a tragic accident that cost her the use of her legs) walked with my grandfather and participated in aerobics and water aerobics as well. Fast food meals were the exception rather than the rule in our house.

Does everyone need to be a supermodel? Of course not. On the other hand, should the message be to children/teenagers who are seriously overweight that it doesn’t matter, or should it be that they need to control what they eat, exercise responsibly, and speak with their doctor if the weight doesn’t come off?

I would hope that the second message is what we should be teaching. Alas, instead of the healthy middle ground, we’re stuck oscillating between girls who drive themselves into sickness (anorexia/bulemia/other eating disorders) in pursuit of an unattainable Size 0 goal, or giving up so far that they destroy their own bodies, causing all sorts of other health risks with binge eating and lack of exercise.

And then I remember a fundamental shift – reading one of my dad’s old comic books (I think from 1971) I saw an ad for a product I considered unthinkable: a product advertised to young women who were too skinny to be considered attractive.

How far we’ve come!

(Addendum: yes, I am aware that young boys are taught unhealthy things too – everyone wants to be the overly muscled football star, etc. However for some reason, the “unhealthy weight” aspect is drilled into girls a lot more than into boys, probably because men don’t spend nearly as much time watching nearly-naked men prancing down a runway in fashion shows or seeing nearly-naked men on the cover of fashion magazines, as opposed to the myriad products marketed towards women this way.)

Category: Coffeehouse

Having run in anime circles for nearly a decade now, I’ve run across a disproportionate number of people that have an interest in Japanese culture. My friend Quen speaks Japanese pretty fluently, as does my Deseret friend and coworker Milton. My friend Clint tried to take some classes and a group of us considered going to Japan to teach English in the JET program.

Generally speaking I believe it to be a good thing to be interested in cultures outside of America and Europe and I applaud all those that went beyond just watching anime and chose to learn about the culture. There is an underside to this, however. More than a few people that have done so turn around and use what they’ve learned to demonstrate their internationale cred at the expense of actual enlightenment.

To put a finer point on it, a number of Japanophiles I know are quick to argue that Japanese culture is superior to American culture. They point to Japanese artistic work (more than just anime and manga, usually), their long traditions, embracing of Buddhist (or any non-Christian, really) religion, and every way that their culture differs from ours as proof that their culture is more enlightened than ours. Implied is that they, by appreciating said culture, are more enlightened than we are. It’s an extension of the traveling abroad issue recently mentioned by Bob.

Even that wouldn’t bother me if these people didn’t so often complain about American culture in the ways that it is like and even less extreme than Japanese culture. For instance, the same people that exalt Japanese culture often complain about (to pick two examples) American conformity and the failure of our government to respect our rights. Say whatever great things you want about Japanese culture, but by any reasonable measure these are not things in which the Japanese demonstrate a better record than the US.

Quite the opposite, actually.

As a disclaimer I want to say outright that I am not saying that American culture is superior to Japanese culture. It’s beside the point even if it is true. Japan has its problems (not unlike America), but it remains a prosperous, cohesive nation that went from decimation during World War II to an economic powerhouse. Which culture is “better” depends largely on who you are. It depends on your social status, your economic status, and probably more than anything else your temperament. Some people are more naturally suited to American culture, some people more naturally suited to Japanese. So having said that bear in mind that I intend the distinctions between cultures to be relatively value-neutral simply because I don’t want to get into a discussion over superior and inferior cultures.

With that out of the way, it stretches credibility beyond the breaking point to say that American culture demands more conformity than Japanese culture or that Americans are further on the policing spectrum than the personal rights spectrum when it comes to law enforcement. But logic isn’t the point, feeling superior is. They see Japanese conformity as fundamentally different from American conformity. Better in some indescribable way that a simpleton like myself could never possibly understand.

Good grief, I really hate people sometimes.

Category: Coffeehouse

As mentioned last week, the power system at my alma mater, Southern Tech University, left a lot to be desired. This was particularly true at Greenwood, the aging dorm that I lived in from my sophomore to my senior years. Around my sophomore year I decided that to help beef up my networking skills I would have two computers instead of one. With some help from my friends, my two computers became three computers pretty quickly as I needed a file server so that I didn’t have to worry about one computer being screwed up by the other goofing up. As long as no applications were running on the fileserver, it remained reliable, but running any application on Windows 95 and Windows 98 presented risks. It’s easy to take for granted how stable Windows has become since Windows 2000.

In our dorm we also had a fridge and a microwave. My roommate also had a computer. This proved to be more than the room could handle, no matter how evenly we tried to distribute the technology. Worse yet, whenever a short would occur it would take out the whole wing of the dorm. Outages weren’t constant, but they weren’t infrequent, either. The further into the semester we got, the more frequent they started to become, however. It got to the point that we would cross our fingers whenever we’d put something in the microwave. For some reason, it was the microwave beeping that seemed to be what pushed it over the edge. It didn’t matter whether it was beeping because it was done or beeping because we told it to stop.

There started to become incidents when we’d come home and the power would be off without the assistence of microwave. Then I started coming home and the power would be on, but my computers would be unplugged. Apparently the electrical team decided that my computers were part of the problem. Fair enough, but they also spoiled a lot of food by unplugging our fridge. So I took the hint and simply stopped turning on all of my computers. Except when I was working on networky things, I could just use the fileserver.

Then one day I came home and every last appliance in our room (right down to our alarm clocks) was unplugged. We also had a “warning” slipped under our door that we had caused the power to go out and if it happened again they reserved the right to impose a fine on us. They specifically cited my computer set-up as the chief culprit. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I informed them that my computers were off at the time and asked what we could do to start using less power. They said that as long as it was just a couple computers, a fridge, and a microwave we should be fine.

We weren’t fine. The next week I came home and everything was unplugged again. Another warning on our door about the excessive power usage. My roommate and I just shrugged. We’d done all we could. The power went out again and this time we got a $50 fine. Not only were my extra computers not on, I had actually unplugged them from the surge protector. Naturally, they didn’t check that.

It’s SoTech’s policy not to graduate anyone that has any outstanding fines. Nor would we be allowed to enroll in classes. This concerned Hubert and I because he was supposed to graduate and I still had a couple credits to pick up that fall so I would need to enroll in classes. We decided to petition the fine. The first “hearing” was set while we were still living on campus. We decided to delay the hearing until that summer. Hearings didn’t happen over the summer so it was pushed back to that fall. Neither of us were living on campus that fall. He had already graduated and for me they must have simply forgotten about it because I did end up getting my degree.

So technically I still owe Southern Tech $50. That’s okay, though, because they owe me $125 or so. Or rather the state does. The Delosa State Treasurer’s office has my name on a database of people the state owes money to. My guess is that it’s uncollected paychecks from columns I used to write for the Daily Packer. I kept procrastinating those piddly $6-8 checks until they’d get turned over to the university’s burser’s office and then over to the state. It added up after a while, I guess. If you’re curious as to why I haven’t collected the paycheck, it’s because I can’t prove that I lived at the address they failed to enter into the system in the first place (my address reads “NULL, DA 00000”).

Shoddy paperwork by the university giveth and shoddy paperwork by the university taketh away.

Category: School

On Half Sigma, David Alexander made the following observation:

It seems ironic that the people who should be thanking god for their high IQ are the same people who don’t believe in IQ while those who were “cheated” by by God are the most religious.

It is indeed ironic that those that have the most to thank a god for are the least religious while those upon whom God has bestowed less intellectual and material grace tend to be more religious. There are a couple of explanations for that. Some atheists believe that God is merely a stopgap for things that people don’t understand and less intelligent people understand less than more intelligent people. Some more crudely believe that religion is just dumb so dumb people are more religious.

Religious people and those inclined towards religion may surmise that the wealthier are more likely to be spoiled and believe that they do not need God’s grace, making it mostly a matter of hubris.

It reminds me a bit of something that I noticed in Deseret: far and away most of the outwardly religious people I knew out there were female. Mostly Mormons, of course, but even those of other faiths. I noticed the same in Delosa when it came to Catholics and even at my staid Episcopal Church, the social adhesive was predominantly female. This is hardly a unique observation as most statistics have shown women to be more religious than men and one fellow even wrote a book about it, which I’ll comment on in a bit.

I find this notable because historically speaking, organized religion has been less than entirely generous to women. Both the Catholic and Mormon churches reserve their highest posts for men to this day. If religions are institutions of control, it seems to me that they spend more time trying to control women than men.

And yet women are on the whole more religious than men. They are more likely to believe in God, more likely to go to church, and more likely to want to raise their children to be religious. Murrow in the aforementioned book believes that this is because the social setting of church has become more geared towards women than men in much the same way that some believe that our public schools have become “feminized”. There may be some truth to this, though I never saw that at my church (which, might I add, is among the more hospitable to women and in the largest denomination to be lead by a woman).

I think there are more obvious culprits. For instance, women are raised to be more right and proper than men and part of that entails going to church. Either because it is demanded of them or they’re just naturally inclined to, women seem to more often be conformists in general. For better or worse they’re also more social; nearly every high school social club was dominated by women. As any woman that’s been lost with a man and in need of directions will tell you, men are also less inclined to believe that they need help.

So there are plenty of reasons why women are on the whole more religious than men, but I nonetheless find it an interesting phenomenon.

Interestingly, to me, in the Truman household the husband is the more religious of the two, attends church more often (which isn’t saying much), and is going to be the one tugging for the kids to be raised in a more religious environment.

Category: Church

Q: Yesterday afternoon when a coworker was telling you that computer processing chips were about to have a substantial price drop, you complained that of course this would happen only after you needed to replace a series of computer deaths that had ended. Were you being a complete idiot?
A: Yes.

Q: What was that horrible grumbling, whirring, grinding sound coming from Clancy’s computer, Mousse, sporadically over the last few weeks?
A: That was the prolonged death whale of Mousse’s fan.

Q: What was that awful burning smell that consumed the apartment this morning?
A: That was Mousse, possibly dying.

Update: When it rains it pours. I was preparing Yoma for Clancy to replace Mousse and Yoma’s fan started sputtering and emitting that too familiar burnt odor. What are the odds that two fans would go bad within 24 hours of one another?

Category: Server Room

I’ve known Kyle since he was a junior in high school and even back then he was something of an unusual guy when it came to girls. Not only had he not had a girlfriend, which was not unusual for the likes of us, but he had neither actively pursued a girl or longed for one that he didn’t have the guts to pursue. That put him in a special category of odd. If I’d had any indication that he was gay — even something as flimsy as a slightly high-pitched voice or strong support or opposition to homosexuality — I might have just assumed that he was. But nothing, so the ongoing joke was that he was an asexual.

The first girl that Kyle ever expressed interest in was a friend of Hubert’s, Chloe. Chloe was a fellow Southern Tech student in the Greenwood Hall dormitory. I can’t remember how exactly she became a part of our group, but she did and though I never got to know her all that well myself, she was a fixture around our dorm. Kyle didn’t have the money to go off to college when he graduated, so he took some classes at the local community college and knocked around Colosse trying to get the grades to get into the University of Delosa. I was trying to recruit him to go to Southern Tech instead and thus invited him up to the dorms quite frequently. And thus he met Chloe.

I honestly think that Hubert and I were more excited about the date than he was. Our little asexual friend was going on a date! Awesome! I won’t go into what happened on their first date, but Hubert ended up intruding on it and ruining the mood. The weekend after that date, my best friend Clint rolled into town. Hubert and I invited him to stay with us at the dorms in part because he was my friend (and Hubert wanted him to be his as well) but also for the same reason as Kyle: we were trying to recruit him to transfer out of Southern Cross, where he was unhappily attending school. And just like with Kyle, this lead to his meeting and hitting it off with Chloe.

Now under any other circumstances I would have been thrilled for Clint. After all, not only had he met someone but he met someone that could bring him back to Colosse. That would make recruitment so much easier. But she had just gone out with Kyle and he was fixing to completely ruin Kyle’s first relationship. Good heavens, who knew how long it would take for him to find another? I expressed my concerns to Clint, who was quite understanding and told me that he’d back off. He didn’t, though, because he’s incapable of backing off a cute girl that might be interested in him. Besides, he reasoned, Kyle was my friend and not really his so he had no loyalty to him.

As expected, Clint won Chloe over and Kyle was left in the cold. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Chloe was a butt-awful girlfriend and put Clint through hell. I wanted to be mad at Clint, but I don’t know that I would have done any differently in his shoes and Kyle wasn’t the slightest bit upset by it all. In fact, it was during all this that he and Clint got to know one another and became really good friends. The worse things got between Clint and Chloe, the better friends they became.

-{Note: In the past I’ve referred to Kyle as “Quen” and “Quenton”. I’ve found myself getting Quen/Quenton/Clint/Clinton mixed up, so I’m changing it to Kyle Quindlen}-

Category: School

trumwill: You know what thought that has been most frequently going through my mind the last couple days?
guiralan: Why would I know what thought that has been most frequently going through your mind the last couple days?
trumwill: I don’t know.
guiralan: Okay, then.
guiralan: So tell me, Will, what is the thought that has been most frequently going through your mind the last couple days?
trumwill: The thought would be this: It only makes sense if you think it in a southern accent.
guiralan: That’s a lame thought.
trumwill: No, that’s not the thought.
guiralan: You said that was the thought. You used a colon and everything.
trumwill: Okay, let me try that again. The thought that has been most frequently going through my mind (which ought to be read in a southern accent for full affect) is: gawd damn chiggers.
guiralan: That is a very humorous thought. Especially when read in a southern accent as you suggested. It’s almost like you were saying something else. Like a confused racist or one that can’t annunciate the “n” sound. Bravo.
trumwill: It’s funnier when it doesn’t take five exchanges for me to get there.

Just in case you don’t know what a chigger bite looks like, or you have a strange ankle fetish, you can look below the fold:

Category: Server Room

In the comment section below I was reminded that my friend Tony’s ex-wife and fiance Lara was raised Mormon. Obviously out in Deseret I got to know a number of Mormons, but interestingly prior to moving out there a number of not-entirely-insignificant people in my life were of the faith.


  • My middle brother Mitch’s first serious girlfriend was a Mormon. She seemed to be falling out of the faith when they met, though.
  • My best friend Clint’s first serious girlfriend was also a Mormon. She was a recent convert, though she didn’t entirely adhere to the moral codes of the faith and was quite torn up about that.
  • The youth director at my Episcopal Church was also Mormon. She was loved by the congregation and particularly us kids, though her faith did cause some problems with some higher ups in the church and they passed a no-more-Mormons canon partly in response to her. She never pushed her faith on us, though, and I doubt she could have been too active a member of her faith.
  • A girl that I almost dated while I was in college. She was the sweetest of sweethearts. Her father was Mormon and her mother converted on their marrying. The father ditched the family, but the mother stayed in the church and continued to raise her kids as Mormons.

Category: Church