Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Learning How To Think

Why is it that, 40 years after Vietnam, all the revolutions in information and the explosion of media outlets and the 1000 different TV channels and information available in handheld instruments and beamed from around the world at the speed of light STILL made absolutely no difference in keeping us out of a quagmire?

Part of the answer may be that, although technology changes, people don't. And they're not always good thinkers. We don't employ what is known among academics as "critical thinking." Critical thinking isn't emphasized in schools. I was just reading a book on critical thinking, "Hoaxes, Myths and Manias," by Robert Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford, that lists the most important elements of learning how to think critically:

1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder.

2. Define your problem correctly.

3. Examine the evidence.

4. Analyze assumptions and biases.

5. Avoid emotional reasoning.

6. Don't oversimplify.

7. Consider other interpretations

8. Tolerate uncertainty.

Now who does that NOT sound like?

Who brags that he makes a lot of decisions based on gut instinct?

Who has a hard time admitting that he's made a mistake?

Who seems to view doubt as a sign of weakness?

We live in a culture that for some reason rewards political behavior that doesn't involve critical thinking, but rather is based on things like resolve, and staying the course, maintaining a belief even when the evidence changes. It is true that war is a contest of wills, but you want to pick the right wars.

The worst thing you can say about a politician today is that "he was for it before he was against it."

Fortunately this is not how science works. In science it is a sign of professionalism and intelligence to change one's mind. If this country had thought more scientifically in 2003, and asked, what do we really know, what's the source of this information, what are some alternative interpretations, how certain are we that our plan will work, and so on, we might not be in the mess we're in.

[The foregoing is excerpted from my talk last night at the Corcoran. That was sort of the politically tendentious portion of the talk.]


Something You Don't See Every Day Dept.:

Woman, 85, Fends Off
Rabid Cat Attack

Bleeding from three bites and wearing only the housecoat she had on to retrieve her newspaper, an elderly Roanoke woman upended an attacking, rabies-crazed cat in the street in front of her home and, with her hand tight around its tail, beat the feline into submission against a nearby utility pole.

"The cat came from nowhere and jumped on me," said Isabelle Blankenship, 85. "We fought for a while. I think I must have won." Authorities said Monday that the animal was put to death after the Friday attack. An exam confirmed it had rabies.

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 8, 2007; 8:06 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Astronaut Behaving Badly, and Other News
Next: Delusions of Grandeur Now An Official Olympic Sport


me first again, ha-ha.

Posted by: omni | February 8, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the clear explanation, Joel. A few years ago I took a 3-day class on Critical Thinking--and the instructor couldn't define what it was that he was (supposedly) teaching us!

Posted by: Raysmom | February 8, 2007 9:25 AM | Report abuse

This is for Mudge and LTL-CA (and all others, of course).

A caipirinha is the Brazilian national drink and is made with Cachaça (a sugar cane rum). It is not made from rum (made from molasses).

If made with regular rum (dark or light, whatever) it is called a caipirissima.

If made with vodka it is called a caipiroska (or caipivodka).

The IBA (International Bartenders Association) standard is:

5.0 cl (1⅔ fl oz) Cachaça
½ Fresh Lime cut into 4 wedges
2 teaspoons sugar

Place lime and sugar into old fashioned glass and muddle (mash the two ingredients together using a muddler or a wooden spoon). Fill the glass with ice and add the Cachaça.

There are other variations other than those noted above such as using different fruits (kiwi, passion fruit, berries etc.)

Also soy milk or dairy products can be added for a creamy variation.

I have never heard of club soda (or any other kind of soda) being used.

I will now read the kit, and see if Tom fan needs channeling...

Posted by: omni | February 8, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I believe Ms. Blankenship must have been thinking of that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, this all sounds a bit familiar. Great talk last night, Joel and thanks for the photo-op (sorry about sneaking up behind you like that :-)

Nice to see so many of the local Boodlers!


Posted by: Pixel | February 8, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

omni, what do you think of "Something Don't See Every Day"?
OK as is?

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Hi Tom fan, my tuner is evidently out of whack cause I totally missed that. Everything else is OK unless...

Posted by: omni | February 8, 2007 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Hey, omni, look at us, thinking all critically!

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I am amazed about the 85 year old woman beating the cat up against a utility pole.
I thought there was an old proverb about beating a cat with a stick,but my brain must be frozen,because I can't find it.

Here are some other proverbs though

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 8, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

repost from last Boodle:

Yes, last night was another rousing Boodle success! My GF's even still on speaking terms with me! *happy dance* :-)

I didn't see the Mystery Boodler raise a hand @ the Corcoran, so I'm no help there... Not that I ever am or anything.

And yes, 'twas a fine speech on Bad Information, something I could bore you all to tears on. Not that I don't do that anyway, but...

And here are the pics:


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Now I understand the thing about JA's hair.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 8, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I've heard of beating (or flogging) a dead horse, having to fend off potential suitors with a stick, and not having enough room to swing a cat, but nothing about beating a cat with a stick. (Just as well for the cat.)

I'm not sure that any of these qualify as proverbs, though. (Perhaps I've got the wrong end of the stick.)

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

gwe, I think the saying is: 'You really can't beat Dead Cat with a stick!' Now if someone would just explain what it means...

Posted by: omni | February 8, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

When I decided to go back to college, I took a class in "Critical Thinking" by the guy who wrote this book:

What blew my mind is that typically in a college/uni setting, the professors almost never know the names of their students, yet this guy had some sort of magical Carnegie-type method to remember every single one of us that was a bit unnerving. We switched seats even, but he always got every name right.

His book isn't a bad read on the topic, though it is in textbook format (complete with quizzes and all that fun stuff).

Great class, though. If anyone can get a stubborn middle-aged hippie to change how he thinks/considers stuff, that's something.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Forget 40 years after Vietnam. Aristotle presented most of those postulates some 2300 years ago.

Logic has a bad name because people often associate it with soulless and unfeeling reason. You can be "logical," the thinking goes, or you can be "nice." You can't be both.

Except, of course, for Mr. Spock. But he was, like, a special case.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Omni,that's it.And I have no clue what that means either.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 8, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Hey, waitaminnit! Howie Kurtz used the word "tendentious" in his column today. So does the Boss. Coincidence? Hmmmm.

Posted by: CowTown | February 8, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

One specific subset of "learning how to think" is the detection of pseudoscience. This is one of the super-fun parts of my job. Especially when the claims arrive with a post-it note that says "A dear friend of someone who can fire you wants you to evaluate this."

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

New age communications may be used by those who would prefer to misinform to spread their bent data. Seems it happens every day and found everywhere everyday. In fact there must be millions spent each week to shape opinion through misinformtion.

Posted by: Dolphin Viewer | February 8, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Rats, I missed the group hug... but Mr. Pixel was very happy when I arrived at DCA on time to pick him up.

On the topic of critical thinking, I do try to read all of the op-ed pieces in the Post every day. G. Will, Krauthammer, even Novak-- in an attempt to gain insight into the thinking of the political right. Sometimes it's difficult to get through, but that's often true of any columnists' pieces on occasion. The thing with George Will is, when he's not talking politics, I tend to really like his writing.

Posted by: Pixel | February 8, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Saw the pictures, and now I know the deal about the hair. Great pictures. And everybody looked so nice.

The kit is wonderful. I don't believe I am a critical thinker, but I do wonder a lot.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 8, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

When Rabid Felines Attack: What I'd be worried about at this point is the 85-year-old woman's ability to withstand the anti-rabies shots and treatments she's now undoubtedly undergoing (she was bitten 3 times--treatment is mandatory).

You're right about the caiprinha recipe, omni. But all the ones I had in Cancun they added a sptritz of club soda: I saw it with my own eyes. (They also used a shot of simple syrup instead of doing the lime muddle thing. They muddled the lime, OK, but just didn't do the teaspoons of sugar. It was lime, muddle muddle; add simple syrup, add rum, fill with crushed ice, spritz with club soda to top off. Maybe that was "wrong"--but I wasn't about to file any complaints, since the complaint dept. at the swim-up bars appeared to be unstaffed.) Ya learn somethin' every day. And clearly another case of Bad Information (mine) on the Internet.

What is this world coming to? Counterfeit caiprinhas. Is nothing sacred anymore? Sheesh.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra...I've seen pictures before. I thought I understood. Trust me. You gotta see the hair in real life to get the full appreciation.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 8, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, that sounds more like a Mojito.

Posted by: Pixel | February 8, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

What is the deal with JA's hair? Not scientifically-kinky, swirling, halo-ey at all.

Can someone please provide a primer on his hair>

The cape, I saw, but TBG the cape is not gold-maroon at all....deep space blue with teal-silver lining in dotted Swiss.

Posted by: College Parkian | February 8, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Great pictures. And what a great sport Joel is.

Joel, if you ever feel the need to create an entirely new identify for yourself and your extended family just drop me a note.

I know people.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, thanks for the photos. This was historical and kind of eerie. Joel, KitMaster, meets the denizens of the BoodleWorld. Kind of like colliding dimensions. And I'm insanely jealous.

Posted by: CowTown | February 8, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

[Psst. When you make comments about Joel's hair, he can hear you.]

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Popping out of lurk (been a JA fan for years and have followed the boodle since the get-go) to say it was wonderful to see the pics and to tell you all how much I enjoy the ongoing conversation.

And also to say to Tom Fan that it was really more of a beating the stick with a cat situation, wasn't it?

Have a great day all!

Posted by: Bey | February 8, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The board of the San Antonio Water System will meet in special session at 8:30 a.m. (about 15 minutes ago our time) to deliberate whether to issue a temporary restraining order against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and any other (different) water entity (Bexar Metropolitan Water District offered to bring in water to the site of the fire via a brigade of tanker trucks on Tuesday) to prevent any water whatsoever from being hosed onto the Helote brush fire.

The issue is not water to be deposited in the newly constructed, huge clay-lined sluice pit next to the moutain of brush, but water that would be poured on workers and equipment were they to actually work the fire and tear the pile apart, given the extreme heat emanating from the burning pile. SAWS has also proposed a different method for tearing apart the fire, suggesting a large clamshell arm on heavy equipment be used.

So all of us around here are sitting and waiting to see the latest in this maneuvering, if I may be so blunt.

My husband and I learned this information from Helotes Mayor Jon Allan in a moon- and star-light conversation outside Helotes City Hall last night, immediately after he had completed an interview with very young and very petite Jozannah Quintanilla from our local ABC affiliate station.

There is a very short article about this emergency session this morning buried deep within today's paper's Metro section.

Interesting this morning too is this op-ed in our paper written by local Trinity University professor Char Miller, titled "Holy Moses! Who's Watching the Water?" Char and I have been at several community gatherings at the same time, and have a nodding familiarity. Miller is director of urban studies at Trinity University where NYT op-ed columnist spoke Monday night.

The op-ed is interesting because it brings a religious theme to the issues of fighting the fire and also raises the issue of the potential for contamination of the huge underground aquifer--the religious reference unnecessary, but perhaps humorous to some, but not to me, given the duration now of being personally impacted. We do not need to turn this ongoing environmental problem into a religious issue.

However, these two paragraphs that Miller wrote are significant:

"Consider, for instance, the failure of the state body and local authorities to establish the fire's impact on air quality. Although those in the surrounding neighborhood, including O'Connor High School, provided ample evidence of respiratory problems, the scientific monitors failed to register adverse data.

"Metro Health later would admit its instruments were in the wrong position to capture the information needed to assess how compromised public health had become. It's unsettling that in a region facing rigorous sanctions for its nonattainment of Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards that its pollution experts botched this rudimentary evaluation."

Holy Moses! Didn't I just blog the the very same material about two weeks ago?

I find other problems with Miller's op-ed since it's armchair opinion-giving, rather than boots-on-the-ground reporting.

Last night's pleasant and casual conversation with Helotes Mayor Jon Allan, was the longest one-on-one (well, O.K., two-on-one) access I've had to him since this all began. I learned much, more of which I may reveal later.

Allan, I found out, attended Purdue for his B.S., Vanderbilt for his M.S., University of Michigan for his doctoral degree, and Harvard, for his post-doc. I shared with Allan that my distant great-grandfather, the Rev. John Wilson Jr., graduated Harvard's first class in 1642.

Allan said that the chair of his division within the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research is Dr. Jean Patterson. My path crossed Dr. Patterson's path when I was the last person to testify in June 2002 at the last of four nationwide forums hosted by the Advisory Committee On Immunization Practices about the advisibility of widepread smallpox inoculations.

Dr. Fernando Guera, longtime head of Bexar County Metropolitan Health District--who is also responsiblu for the helth of citizens affected by the fire, sat on that same immunization panel in June 2002, since he is a former member of ACIP. Guerra is closely aligned with former Walter Reed physician, Dr. Harold Timcoe, they both hosting a public forum circa early 2005 (I have to check my files) about the county plan to rapidly immunize area residents against smallpox, should the need or crisis arise. Timcoe is spearheading the effort to represent the county in the bid, competing against a number of other states to bring (yet another) Cat 4 biosafety lab to Alamo City.

As for me, I had 112 needle pricks in my back on Tuesday morning to test for a variety of allergens. My back was on fire for 15 minutes--and I could not touch it, until the results were calibrated. I stil had big red welts on my back by midafternoon.

The results show that I'm allergic to just about everything that is a tree, grass, or weed pollen. That's really not news, since I told Dr. Ratner in our conversation that I can breathe very clearly in either a marine or alpine environment. There was a big surprise--I'm not allergic to shrimp, but am mildly reactive to crab. I could go off on a tangent here. Ratner labeled me "environmentaly sensitive."

Smoke and particulate matter are not allergens but irritants. So, being so environmentally sensitive, plus being subjected to a great deal of smoke and particulate matter is BAD news for me. I must now measure by breath exhalation twice a day. I now inhale Nasonex at night, and suck in Pulmicort in the morning and evenings. I have Albuterol for extreme episodes. I go today to have blood drawn to determine if I have autoimmune tendencies. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Loomis | February 8, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the Kit on critical thinking. It provides a nice segue to writing about Frank Rich, Part II, a little bit later today. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Posted by: Loomis | February 8, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I think he already knows.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 8, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Pixel, it does sound like a mojito. At least the way they made them in Cancun, it was basically a mojito without the mint leaves. (The mint leaves do make quite a bit of difference in the taste, I found. I like both--but yes, I'd would have thought a caiprinha was just a mojito. And as far as I'm aware, all the ones I had in Mexico used rum and not cachaça. The first time I knew about cachaça was when I ordered one at M&S at the last BPH, and omni told me about cachaça. That may have been the first--and only-- "authentic" caiprinha I've had. And I'd have sworn it had club soda in it, but maybe not; I didn't see them make it (they had to look it up in the bartender's recipe book). Curiously, in the fancy-shmancy M&S drink menu they have, they list the caiprinha as one of their specilty drinks. Apparently, though, I was the first one to ever order one, since they had to look it up.

Very strange.

But I don't care: they have wonderful antiscorbutic properties, and that's all I care about: the medicinal value and scurvy prevention. I'm all about the lime.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Frank Rich's name should be included as the speaker who gave an address Monday night at Trinity University.

My testimony in June 2002 before the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center was what it was like to have been smallpox-vaccine injured as a 9-year-old girl.

Posted by: Loomis | February 8, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

You're right, LostInThought.

For the benefit of College Parkian:
[there will be a show tonight, on trampoline . . .]

The deal is, Joel has described his own hair with terms such as "famously bad" and "flyaway." Rather than take the usual "No, your hair is fine!" approach, most people opt to encourage him in his low-hair-esteem.

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I always look at it as a back-handed compliment. To be in one's mid 40's with a full head of fly-away hair is a problem many men would love to have.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Wow, you guys gotta read this. A group of VERY angry Iraqi vets has called Bush and Cheney "draft dodgers" and blasted them over the troop increase.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

On top of that, it suits him.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 8, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Er, yeah, I missed the bit about the mint. No mint, no mojito. I've had authentic caipirinhas and though they're tasty, I prefer a mojito-- prevents scurvy AND promotes minty-fresh breath.

Posted by: Pixel | February 8, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Is there any correlation between wild hair and greatness?Joel,Albert?

I guess the exception would be Don King,although their could be an arguement that Don has acheived a different kind of sucess in the boxing world.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 8, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The Kit and Kaboodle Tilt-a-Whirl and Collider experiment went off very nicely yesterday evening at the Corcoran Museum.

No injuries were reported from the pregame BPH, lecture, Q&A, photo-op, and postgame BPH wrapup sessions, though there were a couple of Bad Information incidents with regards to unflattering digital images.

A good time was had by all by all availble indicators; no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed at this point in time.

Thanks to Joel for being a gracious host (and putting up with some silliness), and thanks to the Boodlers for making the evening such a hoot.

Gotta run.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Could someone please tell me what M&S stands for? And Mr. Mudge...I read that earlier and dang, it does the heart good, doesn't it?

Posted by: Kim | February 8, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

That lady beat a stick with a cat. I've seen siamese cats used as projectiles, they always land sharp bits forward, but they make lousy bludgeons. Of course if you kept the cat in motion a siamese would make a fearsome flail. Could be used by a Mage.

Posted by: Boko999 | February 8, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

M&S stands for "McCormick & Schmick's" a local restaurant famous for its inexpensive happy hour cheeseburgers and tolerant wait staff.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Someone ought to come up with a list of funny titles about the whacko lady astronaut:

Somebody had to do it.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 8, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Whoops, something else:

A very big public Thank You to Scottynuke and his very lovely lady for being so gracious to us during the Pregame BPH.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I laughed at the caption on MSNBC (I think)

Posted by: Kim | February 8, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse


De nada, really.


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

S'nuke...Thank you. (Even before that, I knew you to be a Prince.) Also, please thank the GF for so graciously pretending we're not strange.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 8, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Back to the Wacco Lady Astronaut

Posted by: Maggie O'D | February 8, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

SSC: Whacko, not Wacco. My bad.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | February 8, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Great photos. I would have driven down but (1) I don't think even the NASA diapers are meant for 4K km roadtrips and (2) I was concerned about spontaneously combusting, what with the overheating caused by sleep deprivation for that long.

Mudge gets earlier credit for the best title in that list.

Thanks to those who shared their stories of new motherhood. Kb, as a new dad I had a similar experience.

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 8, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Yes, meant to say thanks, scottynuke.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

*checking borowitz on Maggie O'D's say-so*

SoC, would you believe SHC was part of the conversation last night? *L*

LostInThought, since she already puts up with me, the rest of the gang should be a piece of cake, right? ;-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Nancy Pelosi: Tone Deaf?

"Pelosi and the Defense Department are discussing letting her fly in a C-32 plane, a military version of the Boeing 757-200." (For the record, Pelosi's arguments about range and security are utter bunk. Assuming that she can't fly commercial, and why the hell couldn't she, there is an Air Force version of a Gulfstream V that can fly 6500 nautical miles without refueling.)

Has Nancy Pelosi lost her frickin' mind? With all the progress that Democrat's have made on the issues of spending and (the ethics surrounding) congressional travel, she goes and does this?

In case no one here believed that "absolute power corrupts absolutely", I submit this as one further piece of evidence in support of the idea that there is very little that separates Democrats from Republicans these days.

I think that both parties should being very concerned that a third-party candidate will find a meaningful voice in the '08 Presidential election. Then it just becomes a question of which side loses more votes to the third party.

Posted by: Awal | February 8, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for sharing the great pictures, Snuke. Wish I could have been there...

To further the astronaughty thread, here's Slate on sex in space:


Posted by: Slyness | February 8, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Yep, Borowitz is on-target as usual...

Astronauts, Hubble Telescope in Steamy Love Triangle
NASA Announces Zero Tolerance Policy on Docking


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates

"We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence then, is not an act but a habit." -Aristotle

To me anyway, that seems pretty foundational for critical thinking: examining, but examining well, and making it a lifestyle, not merely an academic or philosophical act.

Posted by: Tangent | February 8, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

That is great,you sure cracked me up.

They have the *Mile High Club*

Now the *Seven Hundred Mile Club*

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 8, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Democrats (no apostrophe)

No grammar mistake infuriates me more than using possessive instead of plural. I know the difference but made the typo anyway.

Have you noticed that that particular mistake keeps popping up more and more. To the point that I see it in press releases, newspapers, and other printed material that should have a knowledgeable editor reviewing. I'm afraid that it's just a matter of time before it is acceptable because of the "common usage" clause that allows mistakes to become mainstream.

Posted by: Awal | February 8, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Lovely bit on critical thinking. I wish I could have heard the speech and joined you for the pre-game and post-mortem (is that right?). I occasionally teach law students. I always begin by telling the class that law school is really a glorified trade school (it is always good to put your students' backs up early): it teaches you how to think and where to look things up. I then explain that in my course, we'll focus on how to think, since looking things up is pretty easy, and encourage any students who don't like that approach to drop the class. Maybe this is why I'm still just an occasional adjunct.

Thank you for the pictures! It is nice to recognize some faces, and there's always a new one. I'm curious, though - is it just my faulty memory giving me bad information, or does Mudge always wear a blue shirt?

Cassandra, I hope all is well with you. You worried me yesterday with your oblique reference to family troubles.

RD, so far the book is as good as you reported and I had hoped.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 8, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I vaguely remember an old science fiction story about an astronaut desperately trying to get into the Zero-G Club. It may have been Heinlein, but it could have been someone less pervy.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 8, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Awal, where do you stand on the ever-more-common everyday vs. every day issue?

Posted by: Raysmom | February 8, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

wow -- looks like those who made it to the Corcoran last nite had a great time. I must confess to some envy -- gimme a few more months and I'll be able to drive up for special BPHs (or just any old BPH!)

D'ya think if Joel were to cut his hair he would lose his super-powers? A modern day Sampson?

About current administration and critical thinking: lack of curiousity is a big problem. When one isn't even interested in learning enough to "examine the evidence" bad things will happen.

Mudge -- I read that article on the angry Iraqi vets earlier. They have a membership of 20,000, if I read the article correctly.

A disconcerting note about new Senate leadership: after GOP had successfully blocked even debate about non-binding resolution re: Bush's troop surge -- Harry Reid was just gonna move one to something else.

It took 7 GOP Senators to breathe life into the "debate" again. Guess they were more uneasy about shutting debate down than Reid was.

Sigh . . .

Posted by: nelson | February 8, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Raysmom, you're missed every day you miss a BPH, since those aren't everyday events... :-)

nelson, I think we'll be overjoyed to initiate you into the mysteries of the BPH! Keep up that recovery! *hugs*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Joel didn't define critical thinking. He broke the term into sub-categories of behavior. Of course, that may be all that's possible with such an abstract notion.

On another subject, I hope I have enough energy when I'm 85 to beat a cat to death on a utility pole.

Posted by: Redmundo | February 8, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse


I'm not aware of an every day/everyday controversy, but I'd have to say that I'm ok (ok is probably controversial itself, okay?) with everyday as a synonym for common, but all other uses should be two words. I hope (hopefully is another controversial word) that doesn't put me too far outside the mainstream.

Posted by: Awal | February 8, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

While mojitos and caipirinhas sound yummy, I take the Occam's Razor approach to ordering libations: double-shot of whiskey (straight up), beer chaser. Can't get much less complicated than that.

Of course, you can still have fun confusing younger bartenders with this simple order by asking for a "hooker" (railroad-speak for a shot of hootch) or a "boilermaker".

Having been a bartender in a previous life, I took my craft very seriously and studied recipe books and drink guides until I could mix up dang near anything a customer ordered from memory. I also prided myself on remembering what every customer drank -- not just the regulars, but every customer. Made some great tips that way.

That said, I'm amazed at the generally poor mixology knowledge of most bartenders I encounter (especially the younger ones). Should I really be expected to explain the difference between "neat", "straight up", "chilled" and "on the rocks" to someone being paid (and expecting a tip) to pour drinks? This is Remedial Mixology 101. I also can't stand those "metered" pours, where they act like they're conducting a chemistry experiment (when all they're really doing is squeezing as much booze out of a fifth as they can get away with).

Rant over.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the corner sitting on my hands.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Was the the old lady vs the cat in Roanoke a cartoon from the past or what: Tweety Bird's sweet owner whacking the heck out of Sylvester on the telephone pole! Oh the visions simple events cause...

Posted by: Peter Burke | February 8, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I have to admit I'm far too horrified by the mental image of someone desperately beating an animal to death against a pole (however necessary) to find it funny, although I've braced myself to do just that when faced with a rabid raccoon. Fortunately for me, it staggered away after a hissed challenge and I avoided contact. I'm sure the dog owners on the boodle would feel the same way if the rabid animal had been canine.

Is there a rabies virus mutation we haven't been told about (i.e., is the vaccine ineffective)? Seems odd that a cat should be infected, in winter, in a fairly well-populated area.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I BOO'd! PeterBurke, I posted before I read yours, had nothing to do with it, Sylvester and Tweety are ok by me, etc. -eep!

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Kind of a gruesome story, that rabid cat thing. Here's the Roanoke paper's account:

Posted by: Achenbach | February 8, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Nothing odd about it, seven. Every city in North America has a *huge* feral cat problem, and those big boys have never seen a vaccine in their lives. Spay/neuter and keep the cats indoors, people. It's the only way.

Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Ok... I just can't sit on my hands.

Re: The Cat Whacker

This really doesn't surprise me, that an 85 year old woman would react to a rabid/attacking cat this way. Based on her age, chances are that this woman is no stranger to slaughtering animals. She may get her chicken at Costco today, but I'll bet she's whacked the heads off a few of them in her day.

Reminds me of my great grandmother. The majority of the meat she set on her table was dispatched to the "big barnyard in the sky" by her personally. And this went on until she was well into her 90s.

"Big German girls, they make the farming world go 'round..."

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Off-topic, on cats: Many years ago Cousin & Former Wife moved back to the place with, among other things, cat Milo. Eventually pregnant Former Wife banished Milo from the house. Milo took the whole multi-family acreage as his domain and is still around. He shows up for food, usually, and occasionally wanders into the house. Is Milo feral? A concatenation of circumstance has left Cousin and Good Wife with several cats, many of whom have moved over to and are cared for by Aunt. Mean Cat, probably dumped on the road, showed up at Aunt's, socializes (meanly) with other cats, and eats from a dish there. Is Mean Cat feral?

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 8, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The editorial cartoonists have had plenty to work with regarding Capt. Nowak...

I particularly like Cam Cardow's take. *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

loved the group pics from last night.

but *tim, did ja's coiffure really need the extra bunny ears?

Posted by: L.A. lurker | February 8, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The everyday/every day issue is this: Just about every day I see an ad that says "Big Discounts on X everyday at Stuffmart."

Not much to grind your teeth over, but it'll do in a pinch.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 8, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of feral cats, my daughter and I have just started reading the first in a series of books called "Warriors." As far as I can tell it's an epic tale of clan warfare, shifting allegiances, and Machiavellian court intrigue. But with cats.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

"Get on der mischling and ride!"

(so so so sorry... maybe if I duct-tape my fingers together...)

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the literary note, RD. That sounds like a series the Boy will enjoy. Currently he's finishing a series about vampires in 1850. The books are set in London, Paris and Mexico. I would object but he's learned a lot of incidental history along with vampire lore (fiction, I remind him, fiction).

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 8, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Be careful with stories of anthropomorphic warrior cats. Next you will be sucked into the complete Redwall series. Finally, some years down the line you will find yourself passed out at a furrie convention dressed in a badger costume face down in a box of kitty litter.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 8, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

It is exactly because we are bombarded with information, data, whatever you want to call the phenomena that we are flunking thinking. We assume that information is knowledge and it isn't. We are literally fooled, better yet we fool ourselves, that because we are fed so much information, most of it trivial, we ARE thinking. Computers have a lot of information but they don't seem to be able to think, do they.

Posted by: felicity | February 8, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect, felicity, I think I have to disagree that the bombardment of information is the cause of our failure to think well. It seems to me we weren't doing very well long before the information explosion. Now we're just thinking poorly about more stuff, that's all.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I wish to apologize today, to all Lagomorphic-Americans and Flyaway-Hairmericans for my despicable and inexcusable actions of February the seventh. It pains me to recognize that I myself committed this action: making so-called "bunny ears" above the head of a respected member of the journalistic profession. It is important to me to tell you that I am not a hairist, nor am I a hare-ist; I am a person who experienced a moment of weakness. I beg you for your forgiveness, even though I know that my actions were inexcusable and undeserving of forgiveness. This is not who I am, in my heart.

I will be meeting with leaders in the hare and hair communities, for advice on the best path to repair my reputa... that is, to heal my soul. I will be entering a program of intensive rehabilitation with my publici... therapist (dang! this is hard). I beg for your forbearance and for your understanding during this difficult time.

Posted by: The *Tims | February 8, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

And also, Carthage must be destroyed.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | February 8, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Stop that!

Posted by: Tim | February 8, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I didn't realize those were bunny ears. I thought they were Ray Walston antennae.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 8, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I beg to differ - not "every city in North America" has a feral cat problem, although I'd agree that every city probably has feral cats to some degree, since they eat the feral rats, bats, mice and pigeons. Many states and cities have successfully implemented spay-neuter programs, and others have volunteer groups that control and work with the feral populations.

My question was on the rabies virus, since cats, unlike dogs, have been resistant to rabies in the past - I'd like to know if something has changed with the virus itself, or with the infection vector. An attacking, frothing, rabid cat is actually quite rare - even the ones (usually kittens) that die with the virus in them usually just become sick and disoriented, not violent. So I'm curious.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't know if there are any "Are You Being Served?" fans here in Boodleland, but I am desperately trying not to post any "Mrs. Slocombe" pus... er... cat-related double-entendres.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

So strange - there's a new Molly Ivins column up on her syndicate's site:

It must have been one of the ones she dictated before she died.

Posted by: Wheezy | February 8, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Thinking about a president who is a critical thinker. WWJD? (What would Jefferson do?) Maybe we need a scientist/president? Surely there are potential candidates in the boodle. (returns to lurking mode)

Posted by: sal | February 8, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

differ away. It's an interesting question.

Was it reported that the cat was frothing? That would be odd.

Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

More information does not equal good information, just as more hair does not mean better hair.

*Tim, when will you be checking into rehab?
(Or is that reRab? RabHab?)

yello, I meant to make a Ray Walston/Uncle Martin reference re. the antennae earlier, but I gotta give you a Hand, Mr.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Have a sky report, just went outside to get something at the store and noticed a few flocks of Canada Geese flying north. Nothing unusual in this, many flocks stay here all winter, but as I surveyed the sky I noticed it was full of small flocks all flying north. Spent a few minutes watching. Probably saw between 25 and 50 flocks - quite a sight. I might add there is quite a wind today so the birds were having a mighty struggle against the wind and had to wonder what it must have been like going through parts of NY that are being pounded by lake affect snow.

Posted by: dmd | February 8, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

We actually have a former president in the Boodle... *pointing over there*


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

A couple days ago, we were sitting around the breakfast table, and felt inspired to start singing various little snippets of improvised song, to the tune of the Bird-Feed Lady's song (what is the proper title?) from Mary Poppins (Feed the birds/ tuppenece, a bag / ...).

Fix your pets,
neuter and spay.
Cut off their goodies...
(ScienceKid #2 supplies the missing line)
and throw them away.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 8, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Just because it seems somewhat on topic (even though I know it's *not* funny).

Posted by: LostInThought | February 8, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

No LIT *not* funny at all :-)

Posted by: dmd | February 8, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Tim, at least it wasn't a Wet Willy.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 8, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Or one of those things where you point at his chest, get him to look down, then flick his nose. (Do those things have a name? If not, any suggestions?)

Posted by: Raysmom | February 8, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Why, I am proud to say that I am a former President. My administration achieved many great things. For instance, we got a new snack machine installed right next to the seventh grade lockers.

And, for the last time, I must insist that the whole "silly string incident" was blown way out of perspective by the school paper.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I feel I must comment on the first group photo. Has no one noticed that JA looks like he is about to run? He's smiling but he does look like he is ready to vault out if he has to. I can't say I'd blame him, surrounded like that by rabid fans. (Hey its topical)

I'm glad you guys continue to share these adventures with us, jealous as all get out, but glad that you share the photos.

Posted by: dr | February 8, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, dr, I would be inclined to psychoanalyze JA from my perspective of knowing squat (so I get to make up all the best details). However, as last night's speaker noted, Bad Information is nothing new -- for example, consider Freud, who was and is extremely influential, despite getting absolutely everything wrong. I wouldn't want to continue that wretched tradition.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 8, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

(Been outside weeding in the periwinkle bed...)

Awal, the grammatical error that drives me nuts is the improper use of its/it's.

If you haven't read it, I recommend Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It's a funny take on grammar and how low we have fallen.

Posted by: Slyness | February 8, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Tim, were you thinking correctly when you decided on the bunny ears? Let's see...

1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder. (Tim wonders whether he can position himself for maximum ear effect. Check)

2. Define your problem correctly. (Is the problem one of positioning or a "whether or not" issue. Depending on your view, he might have fallen down on this one.)

3. Examine the evidence. (Fingers, check. Joel's head, check. Camera, check.)

4. Analyze assumptions and biases. (Tim looks at his assumption that this will be an excellent humor opportunity and his bias toward slapstick. Finds them both valid.)

5. Avoid emotional reasoning. (OK, so he might have gotten caught up in the moment.)

6. Don't oversimplify. (Couldn't get any simpler than this.)

7. Consider other interpretations (Could be viewed as a gesture of disrespect toward an upstanding member of the journalistic community--nah, that's a stretch.)

8. Tolerate uncertainty. (Check.)

Works for me. Sorry I missed it.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 8, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Analytic thinking. I always tell people that an undergraduate philosophy degree may not get you a job, but at least it teaches one to think analytically. Thank-you Professor Loeb, et al.

"The unexamined life is not worth living." I can't remember what I was reading recently in which the protagonist claimed that the examined life was not worth living. In my book it was presumptuous (well, he was a presumptuous guy--damn gadflies) of Socrates to make that statement. But most people who don't make a point of excessive navel staring would take exception to said precept.

Rabid cats. I don't have a rabid cat story. But way back when my mom was living on the Bullis school grounds in Potomac, I remember an occasion when she fell asleep on the couch in the living room. It being a warm summer evening, I ventured outside, leaving the front door open. I was amazed to hear a crazed barking approaching from the dark. As I peered into the night, an emaciated raccoon charged me, insanely barking all the while. I ran toward the street, too late realizing the front door was open and my mother was asleep on the couch. I warily made my way back to the front porch and slammed the door behind me. Emaciated barking charging raccoon. Did I mention the glowing eyes?

Posted by: Dave | February 8, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks LIT. Brought back wonderful memories.

Flat highway cats as humor generally precede the dead-baby jokes, right after the tasty boiled puppy recipes.

ha. ha. ha. Aren't we all just cynical, callous, wonderful human beings?

I have three Large Orange Cats (bonus points if anyone gets the Dr. Demento reference). I have often tried to comfort or rescue wounded and dying animals on the freeway. I know many people that profess to love animals like to make an exception for felines or snakes, but every animal suffers equally. I'm as shocked and nauseous at a splattered animal as I am by a ripped-apart human, so, hey, thanks for sharing. Not.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

LiT, that's hilarious.

A copy of that pic is going up on the wall of fame here next to my cherished copy of the lyrics to "Louie Louie", as published in the WaPo.

"Rabid fans", dr?

Now that you mention it, I wouldn't be at all surprised if JA grabbed Mudge by the tail and beat him against a telephone pole. (Talk about a polecat...)


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Joe Klein has a blog and is immediately having trouble with Arianna Huffington et al:

Posted by: Achenbach | February 8, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

... this may be off-topic ... but Anna Nicole Smith just died; for anyone interested in such ...

Posted by: ffej | February 8, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Tim's not checking into rehab; he's checking into Vidal Sassoon.

Jeez, a Molly Ivins column from Beyond the Grave. Be afraid. Be VERY VERY VERY afraid. (If I was Dick Cheney, I think my knees'd be knocking.)

Speaking of Beyond the Grave, I just learned a few moments ago that another Great American Lady has died. She was Vera Freeman, proprietor of Ver's White Sands restaurant in Calvert County (for you non-locals, on the edge of Chesapeake Bay near Solomons, on St. Leonard's Creek, at the very site of the 1812 Battle of St. Leonard's Creek, which ytou can wikipedey if you've a mind to). She was 92.

Here's the WaPo obit, but frankly, it isn't very good, and misses the point about Vera by a mile; the writer clearly didn't know her, and didn't get the best stories. Vera was not only a local institution, she was a national one. Visually and in her character she'd remind you instantly of either Gloria Swanson/"Norma Desmond" in "Sunset Strip" ("I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille" or even better, the wonderful Carol Burnett takeoff when she comes down the staircase with the curtain rod dress.

Way back, Vera had (or claimed to have) some sort of very tenuous Hollywood "B" movie background before coming east when she married Doc. Freeman. She ran her restaurant, the White Sands, for decades, even into her 80s. She lived next door to the restaurant in a building that can only be described as a faux Hollywood Taj Majal wannabe that is both hideous and fascinating at the same time. The restaurnt itself was totally kitcsh Polynesian, with tacky fake palm trees, Hawaiian grass skirt-type hangings, cocunut heads, etc., right out of a really bad Gilligan's Island episode. There were old newspaper clippngs on the walls, and the place was so awful it was kinda fun (Vera was laughing at it along with you). The food was OK, and the booze was good. And every evening Vera would "put in an appearance," sashaying into the place in some godawful Mae West kinda gown, with her big "major" hairdo, etc.--a thorough character if there ever was one. After her husband died, Vera developed a penchant can I put this delicately? Let's say she always hired young (30-40-ish) male piano players who, think of Wilhemina's assistant on "Ugly Betty." These persons became Vera's "companions," and there were a stream of them. Among the greatest of ironies, of course, was this entire set-up was in Calvert County; it might as well have been plunked down in the middle of Mayberry or Green Acres.

RIP, Vera. Jeez, you were a hoot.

Here's the obit:

And now somebody just told me Anna Nicole Smith died. Now that's weird.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Whoa... ffej... off-topic? Who cares? That is one piece of weird news.

(I bet Lisa Marie Nowak is thanking Anna Nicole Smith right now.)

Posted by: TBG | February 8, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Um. Wow, ffej. AP and WaPo reporting the same thing.

This has been a very weird news week.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I think the essence of critical thinking is analyzing one's thinking and feeling on a given subject. I find 'free association' helps with this. If a person can think things through then feel things through, it elimates a lot of conflicts within oneself.
Ruth Beazer

Posted by: Ruth Beazer | February 8, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

On the background of my reaction to cat-harming humor: In the South (and, I believe, in Olde England as well), cats were seen as a "woman's pet" - useless, hard to train, with an undoglike tendency to refuse to recognize the Lord and Master of the house (and, often, to give loyalty to the despised wife instead). A rite of passage for many little boys is to prove that they are not female to the others by some means of torturing a cat. I have seen pet cats spiked, shot, burned and with tail cut off (all but the spiked one lived - he had lost too much blood and his liver was pierced). I have often listened to the jocular descriptions of childhood - or recent - cat-torture by adult professional men in a conversational bonding (or exclusion) process.

The semi-pun of "p*ssy" bears into this little American male sociological phenomenon as well.

Thus, though I like to think I have a good sense of humor in general, I am not amused.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Two things:

1. Sevenswans, I'm totally with you. Not funny.

2. Note to whom it may concern: Googling Anna Nicole Smith is definitely not safe for work!

Posted by: Pixel | February 8, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

7swans, just so that you don't think that attitude is universal, that sounds more like a rite of passage for serial killers:

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 8, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

You do realize that the torturing of housepets is a leading indicator for spousal abusers and serial killers?

Posted by: yellojkt | February 8, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Why I'll Never Forget My Evening with NYT Op-ed Columnist Frank Rich

Part II:
The Darker Side

When former President George H.W. Bush spoke at Trinity University about a year ago, the campus's Laurie Auditorium was packed. When NYT op-ed columnist Frank Rich spoke there on Monday night, the cavernous room was only about half full, a moderately sized crowd.

My husband had gotten off work early enough to accompany me to the third in this year's lecture series, and we had taken the back roads, the surface streets, to avoid the clogged freeways during evening commute. We made extremely good time and arrived almost 45 minutes early, in time to get very good seats--front row, in fact.

But immediately upon descending the long steps to the first row, it was obvious that there were some major changes afoot, compared with all the previous lectures I'd attended. In the past, the person of honor sat on an elevated stage with the president of Trinity University. Directly below the stage is a semi-circle on the floor. (I think of the typical orchestra pit, but there is no pit per se, just level floor until the tiers of seats begin to rise up to the back wall.)

This semi-circle on the floor, in the past, had always been cordoned off with burgundy velevet ropes, this inner circle and the nice padded folding chairs within reserved for major donors to the university--the hoity-toity section, as I have referred to it, a section that keeps them separate from the rabble and the hoi polloi (me and the others). Monday night, there were no ropes, no chairs, just open flooring. In that space, instead, was a nice wooden lectern and two stuffed, highback chairs, one for the representative of the university and that night's speaker--in this case, Frank Rich.

This time, three rows in the rows of general tiered seating in the front left had been cordoned off with "Reserved: signs for university donors and local glitterati. We took our seats on the front left, with the rabble and hoi polloi.

Typically, in the past, there have been two live microphones, set up so members of the audience can ask questions of whomever is appearing on stage. Formerly, people filed down from either side of the auditorium and stood in a queu in order to pose their questions. On Monday night, the microphones were nowhere to be seen.

Since we arrived early, I decided to use the restroom. I had brought Frank Rich's book, "The Greatest Story Ever Sold," and had left it on my seat as a place holder. Before departing for the restroom, we had already begun to strike up a conversation with Bob from Bulverde, retired Air Force, who was attending because he loves politics and is involved in the fight about the plan to build a toll road between north San Antonio and his outlying community of Bulverde.

While I was in the restroom, a man (and his wife) was seated in the row behind us and to our left, on the aisle, who asked my husband if he might look at Rich's book that I had brought along. When I returned to my seat, my husband told me that the man is German. Within moments, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Werner Schroder and his frau, they living in San Antonio during the winter and residing in Dusseldorf, Germany during the summer. I practiced a bit of my German with Shroder, rusty as my second language is. Schroder and I exchanged e-mail addressed. His son formerly worked for Reuters in Germany as a financial reporter.

To my immediate left was an older, tall willowy blonde, dressed very casually in denim, along with (her?) two teens to her left. Since she thought her husband might join her a little bit later, we kept the seat between us empty, reserved for her husband. She will figure into my story a little bit later.

After Rich and the university official came to the front of the auditorium, the official (someone new whom I didn't know or recognize) asked the audience if any members had questions for Rich. My hand immediately shot into the air, as did many others seconds later. This offiicial said that they had a new system for asking questions, in case there were members of the audience who have a phobia of the microphone. All questions were to be submitted on 3x5 cards, with several volunteers at the ready to pass out these blank cards and collect them, filled with questions, at the end of Rich's talk.

Frank Rich spoke about the huge gulf currnenlty between our national perception of reality and entertainment, and the rise of what Rich terms the "mediathon." Rich mentioned important historic and cultural media moments along the way: the serialized story of "Roots," the rise of CNN during the first Gulf War, the addition to the 24/7 news culture of MSNBC and FOX. He mentioned those entertaining but ubiquitous news-empty media cycles including the car crash that killed Princess Diana and the coverage and sometimes bad reporting of the story of the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. I am most assured that the story of NASA astronaut Kim Nowak can easily be included in this category.

I don't know if this is Rich's stump speech, that he presents every time he speaks on the lecture circuit. (I am reminded of Ken Burns talk last November and how similar it was to what this filmmaker presented at the Loomis Chaffee school--Burns' commencement address covered in the Loomis Chaffee quarterly magazine.) However, Rich spoke intelligently, forecefully, and passionately, not needing to look at his pages of notes. Early on in his talk the first few pages of his speech fell from the lectern on the side of the wooden stand where I and my husband could see them. Rich didn't need his typed speech at all, didn't even bend over to pick up the loose pages, never gave them a second glance. This was Frank Rich at his finest and most eloquent.

What happened next is the mystery. The volunteers scurried up and down the steps to collect questions from various audience members, including Dr. Schroder. Bulverde Bob and I handed our questions directly to the university official now standing up next to Rich. The Q&A could have started with our two questions while the other questions were being gathered.

Instead, Rich started reading a set of questions--about ten, and answered them, as though they were from the audience, which they weren't. Let me explain that from Rich's perspective, my husband and I were seated at 11 o'clock from the podium. We could see from our particular vantage point what was going on on top of the lectern--even with my good right eye. Rich, slowly and deliberately answered these 10 canned questions, the first about his background as a film critic. I could easily see that the questions were from a printer, in oversized type, with generous white space between each of the lines of text, on half sheets of paper, all stapled together in the upper left corner.

Where had these questions come from? Were they fresh material that Rich wanted to add to his stump speech and that he himself had written, much like many authors write questions as study guides at the end of their books? Rich had appeared earlier in the day in a class of (journalism?) students. Were these the questions that some of the students had submitted? Had these questions possibly been submitted by faculty, who may or may not have been at the night's presentation. They couldn't have been written by those individuals who had sat in the reserved seats, since there was no way anyone could have typed them up that quickly, printed them and stapled them.

Did Rich or Trinity University not trust the questions that came from the audience? Did they think that the audeince was uneducated--Bulverde Bob and Dr. Schroder certainly were not. Did someone think that Texas citizens are rubes? Did someone want to weed out challenging questions or dissenting opinions? Did Rich or the college fear that someone from the audience might not be polite or might be unruly at a microphone?

Finally, the cards with questions on them written by members of the audience were handed to the university official. My husband deftly noted that the question from me and from Bulverde Bob had been shuffled by the university man to the bottom of the stack. That didn't bother me since I had asked a good number of questions from the floor before, using the microphone. Rich answered about seven questions or observations from the audience--some serious, one or two funny. He was fresh and spontaneous--again Franch Rich at his best. But I can't help but wonder about those interim 10 questions--whether they were Rich's invention or the work of his own hand, or whether they were devised and passed to Rich by the college. The event, in this respect seemed so stage-managed, so contradictory, in sharp comparison--or contrast to what Rich himself penned on Jan. 28, in a column titled, "Hillary Clinton's Mission Unaccomplished" about Sen. Hillary Clinton's also very recent stage-managed event, her conversation with America:

Compounding this problem for Mrs. Clinton is that the theatrics of her fledgling campaign are already echoing the content: they are so overscripted and focus-group bland that they underline rather than combat the perennial criticism that she is a cautious triangulator too willing to trim convictions for political gain. Last week she conducted three online Web chats that she billed as opportunities for voters to see her ''in an unfiltered way.'' Surely she was kidding. Everything was filtered, from the phony living-room set to the appearance of a ''campaign blogger'' who wasn't blogging to the softball questions and canned responses. Even the rare query touching on a nominally controversial topic, gay civil rights, avoided any mention of the word marriage, let alone Bill Clinton's enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

After six years of ''Ask President Bush,'' ''Mission Accomplished'' and stage sets plastered with ''Plan for Victory,'' Americans hunger for a presidency with some authenticity. Patently synthetic play-acting and carefully manicured sound bites like Mrs. Clinton's look out of touch. (Mr. Obama's bare-bones Webcast and Web site shrewdly play Google to Mrs. Clinton's AOL.) Besides, the belief that an image can be tightly controlled in the viral media era is pure fantasy. Just ask the former Virginia senator, Mr. Allen, whose past prowess as a disciplined, image-conscious politician proved worthless once the Webb [sic] campaign posted on YouTube a grainy but authentic video capturing him in an embarrassing off-script public moment.

After Rich's talk was over, Loomispouse and I stood in a long line to have the book I brought along autographed by Rich himself. We were at the near-front of the line and the second person ahead of us was the tall older blonde who was seated to my left. It was obvious when Rich was on stage that he acknowledged her visually as well as physically. At the end of Rich's talk, the woman told me that she had previously been well acquainted with Monday night's speaker.

While we were waiting for Rich to arrive at the signing table, I asked her how she had come to know this NYT writer. She said that she and Rich went way back, to New York City, where she said she had co-habitated (I believe this is what she said) for eight years with Larry (I didn't catch the last name because of the noise, but Googled the info to learn it is Masterson), who wrote the book and helped to produce the film "The Best Little Bleephouse in Texas," the story of the house of ill repute in nearby La Grange, Texas.

[I was going to provide two links to the filmography, but they have the "bleep" word in them, and I'm leery of the Worty Dird filter.]

Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds starred in the film. Had I known of the film or seen it, I could have told the tall slender blonde, who is now married to a local attorney, that my former landlord at South Lake Tahoe, Peter Morse, had been (and may still be) Dolly Parton's lighting consultant and about how I had met Dolly backstage during one of her casino showroom appearances at Harrah's, back in '81.

This tall blonde said that (Harvard-grad) Rich had been Masterson's protege. She gave Rich a peck on the cheek and Rich told her to call, if and when she visited New York City. Moments later, he autographed my copy of his bestseller.

As for me, I'm still wondering about those mysterious, canned ten questions Rich answered. Look, Frank, at who's calling the kettle black--referring to Sen. Clinton recent media event. Until I know the answer, Frank, about those questions of unknown origin, I'm reading your future NYT op-ed columns with a bit of reserve and a heart that is now, regretably, beating at quite a normal pace.

Posted by: Loomis | February 8, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's a better link:

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 8, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I missed the excitement last night. Too much s**t going on right now at work, the Wife of Nut is still hobbled in a cast, etc. etc. Will have to settle for Lear at the Folger this weekend (talk about a downer; and then Richard III next month :<0 ). I need a vacation, preferably somewhere warm. At the rate things are going, however, it will be warm here before I have any time to take one.

Posted by: ebtnut | February 8, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Mudge... your source was correct. Anna Nicole is guaranteed another two-week stint as "American Corpse" on Entertainment Tonight and The Insider.

I just hope they don't show the autopsy video over and over and over like they did with her daughter's birth.

btw... apologies if I sound cruel, but talk about a scripted train wreck waiting to happen. I was forced (okay, I was too lazy to get off the couch or wrestle the remote from Mrs. Martooni) to sit through the endless birth footage, the "I'm not high, it's the prescription meds and I always slur my words", and all the other stuff a media circus can only dream of. I even remember commenting to Mrs. Martooni that this stupid girl was going to try to out-die Marilyn.


If you didn't see this one coming, let's talk Florida real estate. Or bridges. Got a great deal on one in Brooklyn.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to SCC you, Loomis, but you wrote Kim Nowak when I think you meant Lisa Nowak. I suspect you conflated her with Kim Novak, who couldn't have been an astronaut because she had "Vertigo" (a little Hitchcockian humor there).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 8, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Joel, a helpful exercise to understand what a culture is to bring about (as in - for example - what politicians are likely to lead this country), is to think of the entity as of a human person. If the US were a person, what person would it be? Try it, it is a useful exercise.

Posted by: PBP | February 8, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Pixel, SonofCarl, yellojkt, thank you: Yep, serial killers always have their "practice victims" and, often, a "pet" graveyard out back. Some states are now taking note of the connection between the abuse and torture of pets in a domestic violence situation and severe child abuse. It's an ugly undercurrent of society, but on the good side, it's starting to change; state by state, law by law.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

The best critical thinker I have observed is a balanced and well-integrated but non-linear thinker. When I ask her how she arrives at a conclusion, I get a zig-zag approach to the very center of the target issue, with no sentimentality, and with fewer steps in the zigs and zags than in my more linear habits. By definition, it is simplicity versus unnecessary complexity, with simplicity (but not too much simplicity) yielding best results.

As to relating thought patterns to politics and real global events, I suspect that a lot of the criticism aimed at the military is due to a less fluid set of thinking habits. If one ever deals with the institution, they might typically find it is an exercise in contacting nice people continually shifting the subject to yet another person. This seems to be mal-adaptive to winning a war today with all the integrative communications technology available to all sides. Sure there is a cadre of really quick people who undertake and finish initiatives, but one fears that the military has become too much like the rest of the government.

Posted by: On the plantation | February 8, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I should point out here that I do have cats.

But I like tragicomedy and dark humor.

sevenswans, Pixel, etc. I hereby authorize you to put up a "Free Husband" sign at my funeral.

Heck, do it if you find me on the side of the road. Plop my body into a curbside easy chair and leave me with the sign.

Hmmm. I like that idea so much I may have to write that into my will...

Just take my body and the easy chair and the sign, plop it right on top of the Viking funeral pyre boat, float the whole shebang out onto the water, let everyone shoot flaming arrows at the pyre until it lights, then have a big party where everyone tells funny (and true) stories about what a stupid #$%* I was.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 5:20 PM | Report abuse

First the son, then her, after this woman has made a lot of enemies in her second husband's family. Coincidence, or the plot of a Agatha Christie novel?

Time to exercise the little grey cells now they've been warmed up finding the redundancies in the critical thinking checklist. But first, a tisane and some moustache-polishing as I phone Miss Lemon.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 8, 2007 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, that's just what I was thinking! Such a strange series of deaths, and all within the background of a family old-money fight - that went all the way to the Supreme Court, no less.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

much fun last nite! and joel was so nice to come up and meet us even tho he prolly had a taser hidden on his person just in case!

i mentioned to the bph last nite that lisa nowak was featured in the Washingtonian magazine last month (pre-diaper incident)

Posted by: mo | February 8, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

The death of Anna Nicole Smith is a legitimate tragedy. She was only 39 and she leaves behind an infant.

Still, a horrible part of me keeps imagining how awkward it is going to be if she runs into that horny old dead husband of hers in heaven.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Good link, mo. New name for the movie: "Robochick"

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 8, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

bc, I'm all for Viking funerals and Irish wakes, but in defense of the reaction. . .

. . .(and before someone else accuses me of beating a dead horse). . .


. . .the horror was at the implied violent and painful death of a loved pet by being run over, not the corpse itself. If you've never had to kneel next to a bloody feline corpse on the road, bawling yourself blind while apologizing to the air for your neglect in leaving it in the care of a drunken, partying roommate that put it outside almost as soon as you left on your trip. . . then I can see how the pic would still be darkly humorous. Obviously, I have too much imagination and somewhat uncontrolled empathy, but, you know, life sometimes sucks and people sometimes really love their moggies. To me, road kill is tragic no matter what is run over.

Although I have to admit it make the local crows damned cheerful.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

SCC: makes

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

In the true life confessions of when animals attack, "feral" Canadian geese are downright scary during mating time.

Once upon a time at a lake near DC, my bike slipped on goose scat and I was accosted by a number of hissing geese.

When you can see the back of the throat of daddy goose riding high on testosterone, well who needs a Viking funeral pyre....

Posted by: College Parkian | February 8, 2007 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Poor woman. Never in a million years did she think she would be the butt of national ridicule. And as SciTim said, everything she worked so hard for, she's irretrievably thrown away.

Posted by: Dave | February 8, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Pardon the self-promotion, but I think the same thing you do when I read the op-ed page of the post: learn how to think. So far, however, that admonition has not applied to Achenblog. For more: Thanks for the advertisement for critical thinking.

Posted by: jcasey | February 8, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Wow, uncritical praise for critical thinking. Am I the only one who sees the logical fallacy in this?

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 8, 2007 6:10 PM | Report abuse

As a person who has lived with cats, I would like to remind those who think they "own" cats that the concept of owning a cat is nothing more than wishful thinking.

You don't own a cat. It agrees to live with you.

Unless you're shaking a bag of cat munchies, a cat will only respond to its name if it thinks it will get a good scratching and there is nothing better for it to do at the moment. Otherwise, you are just as interesting as a coffee table.

Cats are not pets. They are judgmental "companions" who will leave you in a New York minute if a door or window is left open. They will then have sex with everything in sight and return home whenever they feel like plying you with purrs so you'll feed their new family.

Cats are allergic to work. I've recently heard of "seeing eye miniature horses", but I've never heard of a "seeing eye cat". If cats have such great eyesight and willingly eat how many billions of dollars worth of Cat Chow every year, why the heck can't they do something productive? Ungrateful self-centered little gits. Get a job!

Cats are as clumsy as dogs and people. They just make their falls and slips look as if they were intentional by doing that nonchalant look around the room and then calmly lick themselves afterwards. Kitty falls down three flights of stairs and bounces off the kitchen cupboards, but he's "graceful" because he landed on his feet and is licking himself. Ya. Right. Klutz.

When dogs lick themselves, everyone says "eww! stop that!". When cats lick themselves, it's "cute" even though it would be considered pornographic and an affront to morality in most states. It might not be so offensive if they didn't take all afternoon to do it. Showoffs.

I really don't mind cats. I even pet them when they're around. But if I ever find myself in a burning building with both a cat and a dog in it, my money is on the dog sticking around to drag my butt out.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Right, Martooni.
The cat will wake you up when there's smoke ONLY if it has a fetish for smoked salmon and wants you to operate the can opener.

And it's unfair I'm not allowed to eat catfood, too. That stuff smells INTERESTING... kind of like it was made with doggy marijuana.

I personally think cats are that way because they're always stoned from their food. Not fair.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 8, 2007 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Cats simply claim you as territory.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Martooni-- Read all about it.

Okay, I was the person cleaning cat puke out of the carpet this morning.

Posted by: Dave | February 8, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

The only one who fully understood the mysteries of the feline mind was B Kliban. And I think it may have led to his death.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 8, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

"Tried to train?" What, he wasn't sure if the cat learned how to hit that 911 button or not?

I want my own 911 button.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 8, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrodog... cats are *always* stoned, but it ain't their food -- they get high on sunlight.

Think about it.

Put a cat in front of a sunny window and what happens next? The little bugger starts stretching and licking himself and purring and then passes out on the floor (or the TV or whatever).

I think that's why they're up all night. Without the sun, they lose their "mellow" buzz and start tearing around the house like furry ping pong balls on crystal meth.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Sunshine may be a factor, Martooni. I still maintain it's something in the catfood. The nose knows.

As a normal fur-bearing animal I can testify that sunshine just makes me hot.

Smell this: in summer you could fry eggs on my fur, so imagine how I feel inside. Pant pant pant.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 8, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Come to think of it, sunlight triggers the production of Vitamin D. And what Vitamin D laced beverage do cats go crazy for? Milk.

That must be it. Cats are Vitamin D junkies.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrodog... you didn't happen to work in a K-9 unit in a previous life?

Not that I have any glaucoma meds to hide or nuttin'.

Just asking.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Martooni, found this on a website covering papers from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress (Vancouver, 2001)

"The effects of excessive vitamin D intake (more than three times the maximum AAFCO allowance) on growth and renal function in breeding queens and kittens have been investigated, finding that cats are EXTREMELY RESISTANT to the toxic effects of excessive vitamin D intake."

Extremely resistant, like an alcoholic is extremely resistant to the effects of booze?
You may have hit it exactly.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 8, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse

martooni, you could have a dog that would drag you out of a burning building, or you could have a dog like the one that belonged to the lady that had the first face transplant. One never knows if the cute puppy will turn out to be Lassie or Cujo under stress. Always good to have a smoke alarm as a backup.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse

//Sure there is a cadre of really quick people who undertake and finish initiatives, but one fears that the military has become too much like the rest of the government.//

There's a really interesting discussion of this in Malcolm Gladwell's *Blink*. He writes about *The Millennium Challenge*, which was designed for the Pentagon to test new ideas on how to go into battle. When the radical Red Team (nonlinear, innovative) beat the stuffing out of the more conventional Blue Team, the challenge was restarted under different rules to allow the BT to "win."

Ivansmom, wanted to congratulate you on using *concatenate* in such an amusing manner. //A concatenation of circumstance has left Cousin and Good Wife with several cats// If I had to pick a personal word, concatenate would be right up there. I'm fascinated by the computer graphics/linear algebra concatenation concept whereby instead of doing a whole series of matrix algebra to accomplish something separately, do the algebra and just apply the product to get the same results. From the complex to the simple.

Posted by: dbG | February 8, 2007 6:50 PM | Report abuse

My last life I wasn't a dog, Martooni. All I'm saying about that is that Karma's a ....

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 8, 2007 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else glad that the 6:01 openly advertised itself as spam?

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 8, 2007 6:54 PM | Report abuse

The basic prerequisite demands for critical thinking are the set of very solid principles and values that are analyzed and felt internally in a person lifelong pursue to what is right and what is wrong. As a person gains in years, so does his experiences, knowledge, resolve, staying the course, and maintaining a belief even when circumstances change, and not evidence - this is twisting in the natural flow of the argument. Joel has cited the 1000 different TV channels and the revolution in the information technology, but failed critically to point out the fact that each one is sending a different message based on affiliation. These diversifications of opinions and the core messages indeed destroy any person capacity to get to the right answers in knowing what really shape and form the other side, if he is not supported with the real facility of critical thinking as explained above - lifelong pursue. Not all the points cited by Benjamin Radford are correct, for example point six states don't oversimplify, and this is wrong under certain circumstances, for if we want to analyze the very difficult situation like in Iraq, we need to oversimplify first to get to the very core of the problem that is not usually possible through the usual method of analysis as adopted by the Study Group and the National Intelligence Estimate for example. Joel didn't explain how could scientific thinking be brought to have different result in Iraq at the time when the Administration hands are very tight when it comes to Syria and Iran meddling in Iraq - this is to correct her final mishmash argument considering all the known facts prior and after the war of liberation.

Posted by: Saeed | February 8, 2007 7:06 PM | Report abuse

The basic prerequisite demands for critical thinking are the set of very solid principles and values that are analyzed and felt internally in a person lifelong pursue to what is right and what is wrong. As a person gains in years, so does his experiences, knowledge, resolve, staying the course, and maintaining a belief even when circumstances change, and not evidence - this is twisting in the natural flow of the argument. Joel has cited the 1000 different TV channels and the revolution in the information technology, but failed critically to point out the fact that each one is sending a different message based on affiliation. These diversifications of opinions and the core messages indeed destroy any person capacity to get to the right answers in knowing what really shape and form the other side, if he is not supported with the real facility of critical thinking as explained above - lifelong pursue. Not all the points cited by Benjamin Radford are correct, for example point six states don't oversimplify, and this is wrong under certain circumstances, for if we want to analyze the very difficult situation like in Iraq, we need to oversimplify first to get to the very core of the problem that is not usually possible through the usual method of analysis as adopted by the Study Group and the National Intelligence Estimate for example. Joel didn't explain how could scientific thinking be brought to have different result in Iraq at the time when the Administration hands are very tight when it comes to Syria and Iran meddling in Iraq - this is to correct her final mishmash argument considering all the known facts prior and after the war of liberation.

Posted by: Saeed | February 8, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Saeed, scientific thinking is a specialized form of critical thinking.

Despite its claim "Political science" is hardly very scientific.

In the context of Iraq, we need to apply various perspectives from history and look at why we assume something will go one way.
For instance, we got in this whole situation with Iran in the 1970's because of bad information and because we really didn't understand the culture there and that the Shah was in fact a millionaire playboy with harsh policies rather than an actual leader. We assumed what the Shah portrayed of his country was accurate. We assumed many things that turned out to be wrong in hindsight.

You say oversimplify... okay, but the oversimplification should be in the form of a model or a theory, not in analyzing the problems itself.

The simplified formula MUST be amenable to change with new information.

Otherwise, oversimplifying would lead to: "We must commit jihad against all muslims worldwide because they're all terrorists."

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 8, 2007 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod... some people (rightly) think I pull these theories out of my ... er ... "wazoo". But it's nice to see that every once in a while one of them actually has some scientific backing.

sevenswans... I'm not bashing cats, just teasing their "owners" and supporters with a laser light.

As for dogs and burning buildings, I highly doubt that a little kitty is going to drag my fat butt out -- or would even care if I burned to a crisp -- whereas dogs tend to be a little more concerned about other living things. I've actually seen a collie walk a mother duck and her ducklings across a road. Somehow I don't think a duck would trust her ducklings with a cute kitty with sharp teeth.

As for the evil mean dogs -- anyone stupid enough to keep a pit bull as a pet (and doubly stupid enough to think it's a harmless wittle misunderstood breed) deserves to have their face ripped off by it. I'm sure there are perfectly nice wittle pit bulls out there who would never harm anyone, but their track record as a breed is not very encouraging.

And what about evil cats? You know the ones. They launch themselves at innocent and unsuspecting legs all the time. My aunt had one that used to sit on the tops of doors -- yes, on that little 2" wide bit of wood -- and would drop on the head/back of anyone who entered. If he hadn't been declawed, she might have had to put him down for fear of lawsuits.

I don't have a dog or a cat (or even a goldfish) in my house, but I have had both around in the past so I do know this:

If treated well, a dog will love you unconditionally.

If treated well, a cat will demand more.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, I must be part cat, then, Martooni. More love! More pets! More walks!

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 8, 2007 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for the lovin' and pettin', Wilbrodog. The walks... eh. Not so much. Especially when it's cold out (like now). If I ever get another dog, it will need to be a very sedate one.

Mrs. Martooni and I have actually been discussing/debating getting one. She wants a spaniel-type, I want a collie/shepherd-type, and Little Bean just wants something with lots of fur (sorry chihuahuas and dachshunds). In any case, it'll almost definitely be a "pound puppy". I don't have the bucks for a pure-bred, and to be honest, I'd rather adopt a mutt -- maybe because I consider myself a mutt. We'll see.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Tch, martooni, it was a labrador that ate her face off while she was numbed out from a partying night of it. Nice goofy young dog. Stupid, but well-meaning.

Pit bulls get a bum rap. The meanest dog I ever met was a german shepherd mix, well-treated and spoiled rotten by his doting owner, no less. Smart dog, and didn't like rivals for her affection. Tried to kill her mother; her horse; and her cat. All survived, but the horse still holds a grudge (the cat has a new home). Last I heard the dog was still the household and farm tyrant, demanding treats, walks, car rides and attention, killing anything that gets too close and never left alone with the old lady. The horse waits patiently. . .

Posted by: sevenswans | February 8, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Considering I'm often "numbed out", maybe we'll go with a goldfish.

But then I did see that South Park episode with the killer goldfish. I believe there were also killer ducks involved. Something about building a pet shop over an ancient Indian burial ground.

Maybe we'll go with goldfish crackers instead.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

... or better yet, gummy bears.

Posted by: martooni | February 8, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Wow! That dog needs a real boss, not a servant.

The owner probably should stick with very small cats instead of big dogs next time if she can't set down the rules.

I will say it, I meet and love a lot of cat owners, but they definitely should stick with cats or very submissive dogs, and take assertivity training in the meanwhile.

If I owned them, no way they would ever tell me what they want, and really mean it so I'd understand they're not just saying "excuse me, could you possibly stop that and I'll give you steak?"

Instead of taking the body language and averted gaze that means, "If you do that again, you'll be dead meat with fur on top."

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 8, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse


I agree with all that stuff about critical thinking. Partisanship seems to be the opposite. Once you make an emotional commitment to one team or the other, then arguments become just an excercise in justification and lawyering (ie sophistry).

When I about 10, I was attacked by a feral cat. I lived in the country and I was out in my yard shirtless when a cat jumped out of a tree onto my back, sinking his claws in. Then he ran away. At the time I probably would have beaten him senseless if I could have cauht him, but he was too quick and scurried up a tree. I retreated to get medical attention. Later we adopted him and he became our pet and we even became good friends.

Posted by: Tim in Japan | February 8, 2007 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Rabid cats, crazed dogs, Anna Nicole Smith, gummi bears, DC Boodlers acting cliqueish, spam . . .

*channeling The Lone Mule*


Posted by: bill everything | February 8, 2007 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Bill everything,

ya think?

Posted by: Slyness | February 8, 2007 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I think a more accurate description is..


Posted by: TBG | February 8, 2007 9:13 PM | Report abuse

No, it needs a few more exclamation marks:

This blog STINKS!!!!

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:22 PM | Report abuse

>If this country had thought more scientifically in 2003, and asked, what do we really know, what's the source of this information, what are some alternative interpretations, how certain are we that our plan will work, and so on, we might not be in the mess we're in.<

FYI, just a little trip down memory lane before.

No one had to use any real critical thinking to see what would happen when the sectarian divisions in Iraq were let loose. Yugoslavia, duh. A combination of a simpleton born again president and a cowed opposition party afraid to be tarred with a pacifist/loser label was all that was necessary.

More on the impending cataclysm resulting from space junk would be "edifying" (that's my word).

Posted by: bill everything | February 8, 2007 9:25 PM | Report abuse

[This reminds me of one of the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" season finales, when all the guests at Larry's restaurant started yelling obscenities so the chef, who suffered from Tourette's syndrome, would feel and sound less conspicuous. (My favorite was "Balls!!!")]

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I guess I forgot that The Lone Mule used the milder "STINKS"

FYI, "edifying" means the process by which we all become more "Ed" like.

Posted by: bill everything | February 8, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

[Sorry, bill everything -- I was referring to the "This blog stinks" thread, not to your 9:25 post.]

["simpleton born again president" -- ha!!!!]

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Any dog, purebred, mutt, dangerous-breed.., will reach its breaking point and bite or snap or snarl eventually. Any breed, unsocialized, will reach that point sooner than a consciously-raised and well-socialized dog will.

Are there dangerous breeds? Absolutely! I would not have a Braziliano or Cane-Carno in the house.

And pittbulls? Unfortunately for the dogs, that is not a breed. It is a description of a bunch of rather-similar dogs, most of them cross-bred for especially aggressive behaviour. But I've known wonderfully gentle and loving "pitbulls" and frighteningly aggressive "pitbulls."

I am not a person who denies that badly-bred aggressive breeds are dangerous; I still believe that the solution is educating owners. Take a pup (or older rescue) from a responsible breeder or a shelter that screens for aggression, have a guarantee of return, and be very very careful.

And I (as a long-time rescuer) know that too often, dogs are labeled as "bad dogs," when in fact it is a matter of supervision.

Never, ever, let a dog and a child under the age of 12 years alone together. (Wilbrod, I accept you are the exception to the rule). Children run and scream, dogs are predators. Just don't do it. And we'd have far fewer frightened children or bad dogs.

Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Is "stinks" milder than "sucks"? Discuss.

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

TF, understood. That is one of the greatest CYEs! Unrestrained cursing!! Drive the conservatives mad!

Posted by: bill everything | February 8, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Points well made about scientific method as a way for people to avoid catastrophic quagmires. However, the esteemed politician and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura made an even more worrisome point. He posited that one reason that the US gets weak, poor etc politicans is that a depressingly large poercentage of the population cannot follow- or construct- an argument, and so cannot evaluate between fallacious and sound statements and policies.

Posted by: barney | February 8, 2007 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Barney, I agree with what you say. And, the description of Jesse Ventura as an "esteemed politician" and the construction "[he] posited" cracks me up.

I mean, really, do pro wrestlers "posit" things, or do they just plain ole say them. Shout them, maybe?

Posted by: Wheezy | February 8, 2007 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Would that more people would posit, rather than assert.

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Hi RD Padouk. *waving*

Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Hi Yoki! *waving arms like Grover*

Posted by: TBG | February 8, 2007 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Joel... why didn't you mention the part of your talk about the yarn and the clothes pins?

I think the boodle could generate lots of discussion about that bit of misinformation.

Posted by: TBG | February 8, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Excellent. I would like to think that I am a critical thinker, but if one becomes stumped, or wants to polish up a proposal, it is always good to have a fail-safe check-list to go over before leaving the ground.

I hope the woman is okay. Obviously, she has to be treated for rabies.

God Bless you and yours.

Posted by: Hard_NOx | February 8, 2007 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Would any of the 'boodlers who were there last night care to summarize the yarn/clothes-pin story for the rest of us?

(I just feel so . . . *misinformed*.)

Posted by: Tom fan | February 8, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

RD Padouk said "arms waving like Grover."


Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 10:38 PM | Report abuse

And so did TBG! *Arms waving like Grover*

Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

It goes like this...

You have some yarn, and an old-fashioned clothes-pin. You might be on tenterhooks, or you might be creating a knitting machine...


Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I am not a critical thinker (much). But I am an observer. I will stand back and watch and make up my own mind about what is being communicated (informed, of course, by all I know).


Posted by: Yoki | February 8, 2007 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Tom fan, Joel described some anti-shrinkage measures that resulted in Significant Personal Injuries as an example of Bad Information.

I hesitate to go much further than that.

sevenswans, I've had to pick up a couple of family pets off of the road over the years, dogs and cats.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

CBC radio show host on As It Happens interviewing Congressman Waxman as I type:

"Congressman, did you ever get an answer to your question, 'Who in their right mind sends 350 tons of cash into a war zone?'"

It seems to me that asking this kind of question of those responsible for the Iraq reconstruction debacle is like asking a teenager "What were you thinking?" You only ask the question when the offspring has really messed up, and you know the answer.

Posted by: frostbitten | February 8, 2007 11:09 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: LTL-CA | February 8, 2007 11:25 PM | Report abuse

That's what I said, LTL-CA.


Posted by: bc | February 8, 2007 11:30 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: LTL-CA | February 8, 2007 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Strange news week. We've been in the throes of accreditation in our building. Observers hae been running amok, all of my teaching fellows have been gnashing their teeth, and the collective student body has been behaving rather well for four days. Something's going to give today. I hope that it won't involve a diapered road trip, although at this moment, it doesn't seem like a bad idea. Maybe someone will bring a nitrous tank to fill the balloons when the preliminary report is rolled out, assuming it brings good news.

Posted by: jack | February 9, 2007 12:09 AM | Report abuse

I was really upset hearing about the passing of Anna Nicole,poor woman and all she has been through over the last decade.

I do truly believe that her and her late husband were in Love.

Who care about age difference,when you find your true Love in life,you do whatever it takes,whatever you have to to have that person.

I enjoyed her comments,I enjoyed her honesty and I enjoyed the fact that she stood up to everyone to defend what she believed in....Love.....

R.I.P. will be missed

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 9, 2007 12:43 AM | Report abuse

The one I feel really badly for is that poor 5 month old baby she left behind. What a life that kid is going to have.

Posted by: Aloha | February 9, 2007 2:13 AM | Report abuse

Anti-shrinkage? You mean, like laundry? Why does it anti-shrink?

I don't know how you guys walk around with those things.

Posted by: Tom fan | February 9, 2007 2:41 AM | Report abuse

Tom fan;

We really don't think about it...

Which is probably the explanation for a lot of things.


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 9, 2007 4:03 AM | Report abuse

Jack... I've heard from a reliable source in an undisclosed location that the accreditation is in its final throes.

In other words, you are screwed.

Tom fan said: "I don't know how you guys walk around with those things."

Two words: Disguises. Wheelbarrows.

Posted by: martooni | February 9, 2007 4:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning,friends. I am wondering what happened to "american in siam". I haven't seen a comment from him in awhile.

Ivansmom, I am okay, just bad news in the family concerning a three-year old. Thanks for your concern.

Anna Nicole Smith, sad life, hopefully there were some happy times.

Can't type much this morning, hands are swollen too much. Have a good day, folks. It has been a weird week for news.

I still believe that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Nani, wherever you are, I hope life is good. We miss your stories, and we miss you too.

Error, Nelson, good thoughts your way, and prayers.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 9, 2007 4:49 AM | Report abuse

I just want to go on record to say that I have never waved my arms like Grover. My hysterical arm waving have always more closely resembled Kermit.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Duly noted.

*faxing update to the record*


Morning all!! *waving robotically like the crowd in the Jewelery Factory commercial*

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 9, 2007 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Morning all, I will proudly say that the image of someone waving like Grover pleases me no no end. Went to bed last night happy just thinking about it.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, if you are out there I am going to your general area in a few weeks and had some questions about B&B or quaint hotels and restaurants. Staying just a little south and west of Boston (Worcester County?).

Or anyone else if they know the area.


Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Hi dmd, let me think about it for a bit. Not too familiar with the Worcester area but "S" knows it pretty well. You're visiting this time of year? You won't be impressed. We look much better in summer or fall.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | February 9, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Hi again dmd, can you be more specific, the town or a couple of surrounding towns, that way I can try to find things close to your destination.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | February 9, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Hi Bad Sneakers, going to Upton. Don't worry about how the area looks, we spent a weekend in the Boston/Cape Cod area one October, no clouds and nice temps the whole time - I know how beautiful it can be.

Trust can't be any worse than here right now.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Okay thanks, I'll get back to you.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | February 9, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Some heavy thoughts for a Friday.

After reading Richard E. Rubenstein's book "Aristotle's Children," I have come to more fully understand the limits of scientific thought. For this book has persuaded me that many of the most vexing problems of our age are rooted in a complex dynamic between scientific reason and an emotional response to an irrational belief - even if that belief has absolutely nothing to do with god.

Consider overpopulation. Science tells us that overpopulation is putting an unsustainable strain on the planet. Global warming, pandemics, and the depletion of natural resources are just a few of its more salient repercussions.

A simple way to preserve the planet and the future of our species would be to use scientific principles to identify those people who place the greatest burden on the biosphere - and then kill them.

And although there may be valid scientific counterarguments to this proposal, I assert that the most powerful objection is the vague, fuzzy, and distinctly unscientific notion that systematic murder is, like, you know, wrong.

The solution to this conundrum, of course, is to factor unprovable and thoroughly irrational beliefs, such as the intrinsic value of human life, into such debates. To attempt to seek a balanced solution to this, and many other problems, that is scientifically justifiable, and yet acceptable to our irrational notions of belief.

I assert that part of "learning how to think" is to discover, or rather re-discover, how to engage in a dynamic dialogue of this sort.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Both "stinks" and "sucks" are phrases that derive from much more graphic metaphors. The latter is pornographic and the former scatological. You figure out which is least offensive. In my day "sucks" would get your mouth washed out with soap. Bart Simpson brought the phrase into the mainstream forever.

Check out the origin of "your turn in the barrel" someday. Bill Safire once did and it could barely get printed.

If this blog stinks/sucks, it has rubbed off on my blog. I've managed to touch on nutty astronauts, Iraq bloopers, and Anna Nicole Smith. Except since I can post pictures, I can mock siblings that resemble dead celebrities.

And if any parts of the post sound familiar, I am blatantly ignoring Rule 6.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 9, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I can always depend on you for encouraging words, Martooni... *L* TGIF, everyone.

Posted by: jack | February 9, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt - And you don't want to know where "lickity split" comes from.
Really. You don't.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

FWIW, the good folks at The Straight Dope (second only to "Why Things Are" for Answers You Must Have About Things You Don't Want Answers To) say that the origins of "lickety split" aren't very clear.

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I have carefully scanned the entire WaPo home page, and have found it pleasingly wacky-diapered-astronaut-free. May it stay that way for a while. I'm pleasantly surprised how fast this has faded.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, I may just have to read that Aristotle book. Your point is excellent and comes close to expressing an opinion that I hold dear but find very difficult to express.

Basically, I believe that if we were smart enough we would be able to figure everything out through purely scientific, rational means. However, we are about 10,000 years away from being that smart and IN THE MEANTIME, constructs like morality and ethics and religion, and to a lesser extent, political systems, can provide a kind of shortcut that keeps us close to the right path. So even if we aren't smart enough to understand why, "Love your neighbor" is a good rule and we do well to follow it. "Thou shalt not kill" is a good one, too, but in my opinion it's unnecessary if you follow the former rule. I also believe, as a corollary, that it is possible to gain a kind of "understanding" that is actually something more than an intellectual understanding, by being receptive to the universe in a way that is hard to describe. I would refer to LSD and the way that people who take it report to have seen God or experienced the oneness of the universe. That brings it to a more scientific level, but I know that LSD is not necessary; there have always been people who have that kind of sensitivity and other people recognize its importance.

I know this is a minefield I'm tiptoeing through and I haven't expressed this very complex idea in a satisfactory way. But I wanted you to know, Padouk, that I appreciated your thoughts.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

byoolin - Thanks for that link. Clearly, the version I heard may be apocryphal. That's the thing about language - it's usually not well documented.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Thanks mystery poster for the nice words. But, of course, I'm mostly just riffing on what Rubenstein wrote.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

RD, don't knock apocrypha. Most of the most amazing and interesting things we know are completely untrue. It's a minor quibble, sez me. (And Aristotle, who (apocryphally) said, "In BS is truth.")

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

8:53 was me. Sorry again.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 9, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Good point byoolin! I once had a teacher who said that he never let facts get in the way of a really funny story.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I should have known it was you kb. Your intelligence and insights deny anonymity.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

In regard to the shrinkage topic, you can find it in my link below--which was the first hit, mind you, when I googled the terms "retract village china," believe it or not.

What Joel talked about was that in this case, the epidemic in question was not the actual "disease" but the misinformation about it...

And now you know why Joel is such a popular public speaker.

Posted by: TBG | February 9, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

"Logic is only the beginning of knowledge."

--Mr. Spock

Posted by: Dooley | February 9, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

SCC of me by Mudge:

Lots of material lately to keep straight, not to mention medications--for me and pooch. A $250 veterinary bill yesterday.

Yesterday, my perception of the taste of food started going all bonkers and chemically and perverse, and I think it's the Pulmicort I inhale twice a day, so have to follow up first thing with the allergist this morning. But I am finally getting good sleep at night, for the first time in weeks.

But you're right, Mudge, it probably is Lisa Nowak. I don' think I gave more than a glance at the headlines or text of the stroy about this NASA astronaut who flipped out of orbit in her love life.

I dropped by Helotes City Hall about 7:10 p.m. last night for its weekly council meeting, and I inadvertently got to hear the month-end reports by fire and police chiefs. Moe later.

Anna Nicole Smith--grew up just east of Waco, Texas. How far is the small town where she was raised from the former compound headed by David Koresh, I wonder?

Waco--the town from which springs forth wacko tragedies. More mediathon to be sure.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I think that if you get a chance as a writer,you should try and make your readers laugh.There is too much sadness in the news all the time.

I know that since it is news,it must be reported even as tragic as it sometimes is.

I think the same thing should apply to teaching.I was always more interested in a class if the teacher made me laugh.

Laughter is the key,If you can laugh everyday at something,then that is a very good day.Even if you are laughing at yourself.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 9, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Here is a great story about thinking logically, it is about an 8 year old Charlotte, NC boy who found an error in the math calculation of the Ontario Science Centre Exhibit (number of jelly beans in a pyramid.

Note this exhibit had been to eight previous cities and no one noticed.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I fully realize this is a generally pretty pointy-headed, scientific, "rational" crowd here, but I think a lot of the discussion has gone a little overboard in favor of "scientific" and "rational" problem-solving techniques, and especially the expectation that scientific approaches and rational thinking are somehow the "proper" way to solve problems.

I would fully endorse scientific and rational methodologies for solving scientific and technical problems, especially where there appear to be "knowable" answers.

But it seems to me the vast majority of problems our species faces are NOT of a scientific or technical type--and therefore we (or at least I) should have no expectation that scientific approaches and rational thinking "ought" to provide any kind of answers.

As something of a minor military historian and armchair "expert" on military history, I am hard-pressed to think of one single war or human conflict in which scientific methodology or "rational" thinking would have contributed one iota of amelioration or help. Not one. Zero. (And no, 20-20 hindsight is NOT an example of "rational" thought. Sometimes it looks like it, but it isn't.)

The Trojan War? What rational approach would have prevented Paris from kidnapping Helen?

What are the scientific and/or rationalist solutions to the following generic problems:

Various mental instabilities and conditions

and etc.

I hate to say it, but the scientists and rational thinkers who attempt to enter those kinds of arenas above are going in every bit as unarmed as the rest of us--only they appear not to know it. In fact, such a person might even be a bit deluded into thinking that his/her scientific orientation and rationalist skills would be of some superior benefit. They aren't.

Cain, Achilles, Nero, Caligula, Attilla, Ghenghis, Torquemada, Cromwell, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Mao, etc. (to name only a few leading members of a type), are not among the class of problems amenable to scientific solutions nor rational argumentation.

Don't get me wrong; I like science and rationalism. But what we need are not more scientists. We need more poets.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Celebrity news from home--an Associated Press story in today's Washington Post (excerpts):

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Merle Haggard is burnishing his rebel image with talk of setting up an alternative energy business in his oil-rich hometown.

The 69-year-old country music legend said he's considering buying a second home near his native Oildale [my birthplace!!!] and founding a "sensible" green energy project to help the United States kick its fossil-fuel habit, the Bakersfield Californian reported.

...In the song "Kern River," he sings, "I grew up in an oil town, but my gusher never came in."

Haggard's friend [Texan--remember that if Kinky Friedman had been elected governor of Texas this past year, the Kinkster wanted to make ol' Willie his energy czar] Willie Nelson has championed the development of alternative fuels, developing the BioWillie brand of biodiesel for truckers.

*Most of California's crude oil and onshore production is generated in Kern County, according to 2004 figures from the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce.*

Haggard hasn't lived in the Oildale area in 30 years [I wonder WHY? *laughing*], but Kern County officials recently voted to rename a portion a road as Merle Haggard Drive. Haggard held a concert Wednesday in Bakersfield to help pay for the change.

*Haggard going green-who woulda thunk it?

**I will be bringing more *important* Bakersfield news into my further examination of the Helotes brush fire a little bit later today.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info, TBG.
I think I get it now -- the yarn and clothes pins were part of a misguided attempt to prevent this imagined retraction/shrinkage -- right?
(I'm sure I've spent *way* too much time thinking about this.)

Posted by: Tom fan | February 9, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

The banner ad at the top of my Boodle page this morning said..

Save energy...
Take the!

Do you supposed the site has anything to do with Kevin Bacon?

Posted by: TBG | February 9, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

My Google ads at the moment:

Deep Relaxing Meditation
Free online Audio Demos Release stress, anxiety, depression

Learn Meditation Easily
Increase focus & eliminate stress. Get your Free Meditation CD today!

Jizo Images Meditation Supplies

In other words: learning how NOT to think.


Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, ANS' passing trumped the lady astronaut's episode by a country mile.

Posted by|:, I'm not sure that any of our descendants who figured everything out by purely scientific, rational means would be human by our standards.

Without dipping into Star Trek too much, I would simply state that part of the price of human intellegence is complex emotions.

Ok, you could argue that they're a monkey on our back, artifacts of animal behaviors processed through the human mind, such as it is. On the other hand, where would we be without love, sacrifice, devotion, hope, affection, determination, happiness, friendship, humor? Or hatred, scorn, anger, jealousy, violence, despair, grief?

I would posit the idea that we humans are capable of the infinte in this universe/multiverse *because* of our complex emotions (as they are artifacts of our evolutionary development from life's beginnings on this planet). If we behaved purely rationally, there are many things we could not or would not do.

Being capable of literally *anything* is clearly a blessing and a curse, but I think might be what also makes us vessels of divinity.


Posted by: bc | February 9, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Tom Fan... that's exactly it.

You can imagine that when Joel began his talk by saying that he would address the issue of g*n*t*l shrinkage, the audience sat up and listened carefully!

Posted by: TBG | February 9, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I think that six-degree-challenge banner has to do with this:

Posted by: Achenfan | February 9, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Here's a laugher...might as well offer the same reward for anyone able to stop a speeding freight train bare handed.

'Mudge: IMHO, the world's religions arose out of the need to explain the unexplainable. Like, why is there air? Pointyheadedness arose among the first critical thinkers and, I'll bet many of them were thrown out of the tallest tower after being subject to blunt trauma at the hands of some maochistic hominoid that had a pet cemetary. The age old struggle of pointyheadedness v. orthodoxy brings balance to the force.

Posted by: jack | February 9, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Kevin Bacon's sixdegrees website was the main topic or feature during an interview with Bacon by George Stephanapoulos last Sunday on Little George's Sunday morning news commentary program.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

OK, my 9:44 took a little while to write and may be a bit of a BOO (e.g. it turned out that kbertocci wrote that insightful 8:53).


Posted by: bc | February 9, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Well, with a topic like that...I'm trying not to laugh, and I am not succeeding.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, back to previous disscussions on the diamond trade, thought you may find this interesting. Not a solution to all that ails that nation and the industry, but surely a step in the right direction.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

"Even in the most highly developed scientific countries, it is clear that human beings continue to experience suffering, especially at the emotional and psychological level. The great benefit of science is that it can contribute tremendously to the alleviation of suffering at the physical level, but it it only through cultivation of the qualities of the human heart and the transformation of our attitudes that we can begin to address and overcome our mental suffering. In other words, the enhancement of fundamental human values is indispensable to our basic quest for happiness. Therefore, from the perspective of human well-being, science and spirituality are not unrelated."

-- from "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality," by the Dalai Lama

Posted by: Dreamer | February 9, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

but it IS only . . .

Posted by: Dreamer | February 9, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

bc, not at all, I'm so impressed today with the boodle, and I'm feeling less alienated than usual--turns out we're NOT all pointy-headed Spock wannabes after all. If bc and Curmudgeon are taking up the cause of (dare we name it) spirituality / art, as Dreamer said a while back: My work here is done.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 9, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Along the same theme as dr's post, saw this from Birks & Major, signing on to an effort to promote responsible mining.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Nice touch, dmd. I was just thinking the same thing about dirty mining, particularly gold mines. This is done frequently by mining and milling the rocks (30 tons of rock/ounce of gold), then piling up the milled pieces in order to expose the pile to a fine trickle of dilute cyanide. In Latin America and parts of Europe where mining laws are relatively relaxed compared to those in the U.S and Canada the results have been devastating. Use your browser to conjure up a great article with the words: behind gold's glitter.

Posted by: jack | February 9, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Imagine a world whose inhabitants decided they didn't really need gemstones or gold -- it could all just stay in the ground. (We don't actually *need* them, do we?)

I guess a world that wasn't interested in mining gemstones or gold would be unrecognizably different from the world we currently live in, from the ground up.

Posted by: Dreamer | February 9, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all! (I know, it's been morning for awhile now for a lot of you)

bc, the (live) horses have informed me that I am not allowed to answer your 10:51 pm other than deep sympathy for your loss, for fear of perpetrating vicarious outrage upon a deceased equine.

*Kermit wave to RD and others*

Checked the news, and yes, indeed, the astronaut owes a big one to the bimbo, Anna Nicole knocked her right off and out of the country's radar. NASA should send flowers.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 9, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Remember, the argument I am presenting is not that there is anything wrong with reason. Far from it. What I am arguing is that it is valid to factor in unprovable, though dearly cherished, concepts into discussions that still follow the self-consistent rules of logic. This is important since even staunch atheists still hold certain unprovable concepts of morality and ethics.

At least I hope they do.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Jack, it would seem to me it is time for someone way smarter than I to calculate the real cost of some of the products we use, oil, gas, gold - calculate not just the going price but of the future costs of the clean up required, of health costs for the workers or surrounding areas that are affected by poor environmental records.

I hear so often that moving to newer, cleaner technology will be expensive but wonder would it be anymore expensive than doing little.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

On background:

Two grafs mid-story about the Helotes brush fire in an A-1 story today by the San Antonio Express-News' Jerry Needham. [Note the huge, incredible and inflated hoopla NOW being raised about protecting our area's underground Edwards Aquifer]:

The [San Antonio Water System] board voted unanimously in an emergency session [Thursday morning] to authorize its attorneys to seek restraining orders against the state agency [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality], it constractor [] or anyone who tries to provide them with water to carry out the state-proposed paln. The resolution named as potential water sources Vulcan Materials, which operates a limestone quarry adjacent to the fire site (this is the blue that I suspect dr saw on the Google Earth map, and that she previously questioned me about more than a month ago), and Bexar Metropolitan Water District, which has offered to truck water in from its nearest mains 5 miles away.

The San Antonio City Council [this is significant because San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger (related to actor Tommy Lee Jones) ALSO sits on the San Antonio Water System board] by a vote of 9-0 [unanimous] later [Thursday] authorized [San Antonio] City Attorney Michael Bernard and SAWS officials to exercise enforcement powers granted to them under the Texas Water Code to stop any discharge of water over the mulch fire. (So now the San Antonio City Council is involved--about seven weeks after the fire broke out. Crimeny!)

Please let me submit for your consideration, and as evidence, Your Honors, portions of my speech that I (horribly sick with flu at the time) made on or about April 5, 2002 before the same San Antonio City Council--which had some different council members when former San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza was presiding or in charge.

I freely admit pulling the material this morning from my Aaron Brown file. As I have attempted to intimate previously on the Boodle, Mr. Brown and I shared email when he was formerly the anchor of the CNN late evening program, NewsNight. In all honesty, I sent him my speech because his interest in the sport of golf is widely well-known:


Today, I was driving home this morning from the Borders bookstore at Hueber Oaks. I saw a billboard on Huebner. The text reads, "It's a lonely place. Courage. Pass it on." The graphic showed a Chinese man, in a white button-down shirt, with his back to the camera. This Chinese man was all by himself, no one else was around. He was facing four armored tanks, lined up one after the other, in a row. The Chines man was a dissident in China's Tianamin Square. The photo was probbly taken about 10 years ago and now it's displayed on a billboard on Huebner. The billboard and its message have now stuck in my mind for the rest of the day. [I believe Bob Woodruff, former anchor on the nightly ABC News and recoverimg from wounds received in an IED roadside bomb explosion in Iraq about a year ago, covered this Tianamen Square story from the scene, live.]

Several sentences later I was cut off my Mayor Ed Garza--but was allowed to continue for reasons that it would take too long to explain. Please note that I was unable to deliver the following portions of my comments, but provided paper copies to council.

George Rice [who was later voted onto the board of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, see link to the Christian Science Monitor below, but please note that the plan to build the PGA Golf Course over the aquifer was not derailed and was never brought to a public vote--a too slick piece of political maneuvering]

George Rice [as I was saying], an hydrologist and a fairly new acquaintance of mine, has given his opinions, or testimony, before this City Council about the issues we should be concerned about in our Edwards Aquifer water supply if the proposed PGA golf course is built. He shared with me his interest in the book, "Our Stolen Future," which delves into the topic of endocrine disruptors in our nation's and the world's water supplies. Have your read it? If not, you should...before you take a vote this evening.

Are you fully aware of all the complicated issues surrounding this vote? Are all the questions before you answered to the depths of your satisfaction? Because if you vote for the [PGA golf course] project, and something goes wrong with the water supply, is the course of your actions reversible? Do you feel comfortable in selling San Antonio's birthright--its drinking water--if something unexpected happens or if you're subject to the laws of unintended consequences?

I'm not here to tell you waht to do. I'm nobody and I'm everybody. ... I am your conscience. Think long and hard before you make your vote. ...

Hugo, the proud, intelligent man who brings rock salt for our water softening system to our home [in a local northwest subdivision] had an opinion on tonight's meeting. He and I agreed that we don't care on what side of the county--south, north, east or west [several locations had been proposed]--the PGA intends to build its golf course. Hugo and I care passionately that the water supply for millions of people may be compromised by your decisions, if not immediately, then a few years from now. Our advice to you is to have courage, like the Chines dissident in Tianamen Square.

*Note, one of my recent television interviews about the Helotes brush fire was conducted by 28-year-old FOX News reporter Andrew McIntosh, who graduated, I learned on the spot of the interview in front of the TCEQ Strike Force trailers, from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Tempe, Arizona. McIntosh was crestfallen to learn that Aaron Brown would very shortly (may already be) teaching st the University in a Walter Cronkite chair position.

New Yorker McIntosh is moving up--having been stationed in Ardmore, Okla., [where Democratic state lawmakers fled several years ago during the redistricting battle], Denison, Texas, [Eisenhower's birthplace], and now working in San Antonio. I really like this young chap, who asked the gotcha question to Jorge Salazar of TCEQ, as I had Boodled, that TCEQ had "no guarnantees" that Plan B for fighting the brush fire would work.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, what are those 5 W's of journalism? Something like:

What: Survive. Exist. Prosper.
Where: Right here, in (what appears to be) 3-dimensional space.
Why: Emotion. Desire. Munchies.
When: In the future. Always in the future. Or right now.
hoW: Science. Trial and error. Note: error may lead to a termination of 'future' actions, however, which is the distinction between science and trial-and-error -- science allows for testing dangerous things on models (unless they are overly anorexic). But trial-and-error helps to limit the excess population of jackasses. Each mode of exploration has its benefits, you see.

Thank you for allowing me this cryptic comment. Please interpret as you see fit.

(Geek disclaimer: In relativistic formalism, there are only 4 W's, as Where and When are aspects of the same thing, a 4-D space. According to the string theorists, our perceptions are clouded [perhaps by... the Shadow!], and it's more like a 10-D space that only looks like a 4-D space, although we experience it as a 3-D space with time as an apparently different thing. There, I've said it. Go feel vindicated or mystified, as the mood suits you.)

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 9, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I've gone and given you credit for the Capricorn 1 call out, but since our WaPo masters now own that particular thought, the point is moot.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 9, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Caught up some more, saw the st*nks v s*cks argument - if using s*cks in my earlier post offended, I apologize profusely! While I have been known to mutter George Carlin's 7DW in the safety of my car, I do generally try to keep it clean, and s*cks was not on my radar (probably because of Bart Simpson, as noted)

My grandmother's favorite "cussin' word" was "I swan!" (imagine a long-held Southern accent on the 'a' before the 'n' is added)

I'd hate for "I sevenswan!" to be the new euphemism for cussin' for the boodle. Please forgive.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 9, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

sevenswans, thanks for your sympathy, and I think I understand the equine issue. I could add more to the discussion here, but I will respect the horses' wishes as well.

kbertocci, I think when you meet Mudge and I (and many of the other Boodlers), you'll understand why we put so much import on art (and spirituality. Maybe).

We simply love a good eye-watering can't-catch-your-breath laugh, they're good for the soul.


Posted by: bc | February 9, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Dreamer, both gold and gemstones (rather, the material of gemstones) are important for a variety of practical applications.

Gold is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Gold-alloy saucepans would be very good for sauteing or stir-fry. Also good for cooking acidic foods, I would think. Gold is used in some advanced computer chips. Gold is a good electromagnetic shield, a pretty good radiation shield (if you have enough of it), and can be distributed thinly for a variety of obscure but useful materials-engineering purposes.

Gemstones offer pure crystals with various industrial uses. The only ones that I can think of, immediately, are industrial diamonds and ruby used as the working medium in a ruby laser. However, I am sure that there must be many others.

It is our capacity to see beauty in the world that causes us to see beauty and aesthetic value in these items. It is our capacity to be overwhelmed by greed that corrupts our appreciation of beauty. Don't blame the inanimate objects, and don't blame our appreciation of beauty. Our appreciation of beauty, arguably, is the only thing that redeems us from our greed.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 9, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I know it's not politically correct, but I submit the value of things like hallucinogenics is they allow us rationalists to step outside of our ordinary point-of-view and actually experience our surroundings in a way that makes a fairly deep life-long impression of what-could-be.

It's an epiphany when your scientific reason meets your direct experience. You understand why the Indians take peyote as a sacrament.

Intellectually I know everything is made of atoms and moving all the time. But when you see the walls breathe, when the properties of light seem malleable, when you find you can actually manipulate what you see, you *know* it in a different way.

I'm not saying it allows you to actually see the 10th dimension, but you'll have an easier time stretching your mind around things like that and be more open to "non-scientific" ideas.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 9, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the irrational attraction of gemstones. I recently bought my wife a lovely ruby necklace. Alas, I made the mistake of pointing out that this gem was "laboratory made." Which means that it is structurally much more perfect than a natural germ.

This fact irritated my good wife.

Please explain to me why an imperfect gem made in the dirt is considered far more valuable than a chemically identical perfect gem made through the genius of human technology.

Or better yet, help me explain it to my wife.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

RDP... *shaking head sadly*

The imperfect item is therefore "unique," although you'd need equipment costing WAY more than the gem itself to prove it. Which is why I stay far, far away from such items.


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 9, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

RD, don't bother asking for assistance from me; like many men I haven't quite figured out why an autographed Hallmark card is so fundamental to the gift giving experience that you might as well not have bothered unless said card accompanies said gift.

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 9, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

EF - Sagan used to make a similar point about marijuana. This notion builds upon the concept advanced by religious ascetics that the path to understanding is through malnourishment and exhaustion. Personally, I question the wisdom of this approach. Without full access to the rational mind it is difficult to apply any sort of logical interpretation to one's experiences. Of course, the most dangerous drug I have ever consumed is ethyl alcohol. Sometimes with a caffeine chaser.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

RD, my best advice to you is to play up the environmental aspect, she can appreciate the beauty of the gem without fear that its creation caused any detrimental harm to the natural environment. Are lab gems made in a enviromentally safe way?


Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I posit that beliefs of the spiritual nature of our world arose not so much from the need to explain the unexplainable, but more from the need to have a mechanism to deal with it. I have a feeling that it was originally a very practical reaction to the unknown.

You are a primitive hominid, and know that you are in danger from another group of people. You find they are stonger then you and you placate them. They accept what you offered, and leave you alone. Your home is being flooded, the river is endagering you. You previously observed that you could feel safer by placating a stonger force than yourself, so you placate the river with something. The river goes down, and voila, a belief that if you do A, you will be safe from flooding.

The emotional part of a belief system comes when you fear what would happen if you don't do, in this instance, that by not doing A, you incite the flood.

I'm as open to the possibility that our siencey parts gave rise to our religiousy parts as I am the other way round.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

My family debated the real versus artificial gems issue just last night. My wife contends that a five carat lab-made diamond is a perfectly suitable replacement for a two carat natural diamond.

It's not the genuineness of the item, it's the economic effort that got wasted on the gesture. For Valentine's Day, save some poor rose bush's life and just individually burn twenty dollar bills in your companion's presence to prove your undying affection.

In Thomas More's Utopia, chains for prisoners were made of gold to emphasis the worthlessness of the metal.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 9, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

RD, if you think about who made those gems and how long it took, it might give you some insight.

yellojkt: Sir, I have left you another comment, and I think you have settled the matter fairly.


Posted by: bc | February 9, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I think her objection to the lab-grown ruby is a reflection of some abstract distinction between that which is man-made and that which is natural. This distinction is arbitrary since it assumes mankind is not part of nature - yet we all arose from the same primordial ooze.

Or, perhaps she just thinks me cheap.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

re: roses vs. burning money

yellojkt, that is funny; I'll be quoting you.

An alternate worldview: my husband recently informed me that from now on we'll be celebrating Valentine's Day on February 15. Luckily for him, I am a low-maintenance spouse with a sense of humor. I actually thought it was an excellent idea. [Just to clarify, for those of you who are less practical-minded, the date shift is in response to the dramatic drop in prices of holiday-related items on the Day After.]

Posted by: kbertocci | February 9, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

kb - clever. Let's just hope it doesn't catch on.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

RD, (shaking head sadly) a serious failure in crtical thinking on your part.

The value is not in knowing if the flowers in our hand are dandelions or long stemmed roses, the value is that they are given.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

O good golly - I see I actually typed "germ" instead of gem. Clearly I have been staring at this screen far too long.

Busy afternoon planned - so I hope all have a great weekend.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

kb, there was actually a Bud lite ad about 'cards for men' and one of them was "Let's make Feb 15 OUR Valentine's Day".

dmd, "it's the thought that counts" for men is a procedural argument that typically goes to sentencing rather than to the merits of the cause.

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 9, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Ahhh - the keep my mouth shut approach. This was, indeed, suggested by my insightful wife as a legitimate technique.

Posted by: RD Padouk | February 9, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

>Without full access to the rational mind it is difficult to apply any sort of logical interpretation to one's experiences.

RDP, it's not that you don't have access to the rational mind, it's that your experience is not bound by it. There are any number of ways you might be brought to that point, including a simple beam of sunshine or the scent of a flower in the spring, but I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything in the world. And it beats starving yourself half to death.

Not to mention laughing until your face hurts, which is pretty groovy in itself.

Posted by: Error Flynn | February 9, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

An important editorial to read:

This man makes the point that Abu Ghraib was not an aberration, it was policy. His evidence is the orders he was given and carried out, and the observation of what went on around him. We have allowed our leadership to soil our government and our nation. It will take a long time and a lot of soap to wash the damned spot from our hands.

Posted by: Tim | February 9, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

SoC, I am laughing as when it comes to cards, and nice gestures, my husband is way better at it than I am, perhaps that is why I appreciate the "thought", I do, however, get a little annoyed if it is obvious their is "very little thought" that was involved or "bone headed thought" as in wouldn't a pizza cutter be a great gift.

While we are vaguely on this topic, any great, sweet valentines ideas for men, lets face it, it is a holiday designed for women.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

However if by some chance you are compelled to give your wife dandelions, this clearly rule does NOT APPLY, not even if they are 'wildflowers' that you have walked miles to collect just for her. Just sayin. Then just go buy the roses.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

SCC 'this rule clearly'

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I once worked just down the road from a Hallmark Cards plant. It was a low, flat, windowless, featureless and utterly nondescript single-story factory building that seemed to have been stamped out of one piece of construction material. There could have been thousands of other buildings exactly like it in other places.

In short, a perfect metaphor for the cards themselves.

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

RdP and others on the Aristotlian thread:
Aristotle in _De Rhetorica_ looked at all the types of proofs (means to persuade). While they overlap, proof categories are relatively "equal" in ontological weight. We argue with evidence chunks that are more or less

Logos-based -- appeal to reason
Pathos-based -- appeal to emotion
Ethos-based -- appeal to credibility

The pathos-based arguments are extremely powerful. Do you buy a Hummer based on logic? No sireee!

Do we go to war largely on logic? Nooooooo ma'm!

Do we choose a life partner purely on reason? No way, Jose!

Aristotle's range is amazing. But he also missed a few hum-dingers. For example, he said that women have fewer teeth than men. Sheesh. Check the data, dude. Look the lady in the mouth!

Side comment: I can now say to my students something like, "Just the other day whilst amid a lively discussion of Aristitelian rationality..."

Dead white guy: still crazy (good!) after all these years.

Posted by: College Parkian | February 9, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

So, let's just say, hypothetically, one's girlfriend says, "You don't have to get me anything for Valentine's Day; I just want to spend time with you." In that circumstance, would one be off the hook in terms of buying roses/chocolate/etc.? Or is that a, "you jerk for even thinking of not getting me anything, aren't i special?" in girl-speak? Er, of course this is all, um, hypothetical, pretty much.

Posted by: Tangent | February 9, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Bertooch, if the Dalai Lama and I are on the same page (as it appears we are), then MY work here is done, too. I've spent I don't know HOW much time bringing that guy around to my way of thinking, and I'm glad to see my efforts have paid off. A good guy, after I ground down some of the rough patches off of him. (Got him to stop cleaning the earwax out of his ears with his car keys, too.)

I think if I had to summarize my larger point, it is that if we are expecting science to "save" us, as a race, we're going to be disappointed.

On the question of spirituality, I have to take some serious umbrage with people like Dawkins, because I don't think he has a single clue what it is all about, and he clearly doesn't respect it. But on the other hand, I don't think anyone else has a grip on it, either (I sure as hell don't). It seems to me to exist as a very necessary and fundamental aspect of human nature, and appears to me to be something close to "universal" in its application and dispersal throughout human history. But what it is and how it needs to be addressed--we haven't a clue. That it has been abused and perverted in all manner of ways is undoubtedly true. But that doesn't mean we should sneer at it or demean it. Given its tremendous power, we damn well out to fear it and to some extent respect it.

The odd thing is, I'm unaware of anyone working on the question of spirituality as a human attribute, absent some secondary agenda. Sometimes I think Joseph Campbell was flirting around the edges of it, and maybe William James (of whom I am fond), but nobody else (to my satisfaction, anyway).

I'd tackle it myself, but I got other work to do: Love, Death, The Human Condition, etc. And at age 60, I'm on deadline.

--The Mighty Favog

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Re: rubies. The unique or natural condition of the ruby from dirt may hold sway over the thought of ruby from lab work, just because we're not used to thinking of the latter as "real" stones. This threatens to devolve into a discussion of what is real, which can easily veer off into metaphysics and dampen the romantic mood. Although there is no way, RD, for you to convey this suggestion, I'd go with the "oh my gosh! he gave her a RUBY NECKLACE!" response, without consideration of source. Or, as was suggested, the "here is a present for you, my heart's delight" and leave it at that.

Re: critical thinking - it and squishy, non-science subjects are not mutually exclusive. RD and others have expressed this, and as someone far up the Boodle chain noted, scientific thinking is merely a subset of critical thinking. It is possible and even desirable to use critical thinking when dabbling in arts, literature, etc., and particularly religion (think of the Jesuits and pretty much any theology). Intellectual rigor isn't confined to science, but sheds light on all kinds of pursuits. While scientific thinking may never help us prepare for the irrational attacks of evil people (as per Mudge's list above), critical thinking can help inform our response to them.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 9, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Aristotle also thought slavery to be part of the natural order of things:

Tangent, while such statements are sincere, the problem is that they can be retracted without notice, even retroactively after the event in question. So consider yourself warned, unless you'd like to risk the non-hypothetical silent treatment.

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 9, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, always get a gift (bought or made), that "don't get me anything" could be said for many reasons.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, when I tell Ivansdad not to get me a present for Valentine's, Mother's Day, or other Hallmark occasions, I mean it. If I say -- and he agrees -- that we should not exchange gifts, but (for example) go out somewhere, or look for something we both like, I mean it. I expect at that point not to receive a gift, and won't be giving one either. [I note that Ivansdad is aware of this but gives me something anyway.]

However, I'm told that I may be an anomaly. It is possible that your hypothetical girlfriend may in fact expect something after such a statement. She may in fact expect you to read her mind and give her a particular item. [This may have something to do with age. By the time a woman reaches her forties she is pretty certain no man will ever read her mind accurately, and may even welcome that knowledge.] You'd better get her a little something, and deliver it, while you're spending that time together, with a shamefaced explanation about how you know you agreed not to give her anything but just couldn't help yourself. You may want to make the "gift" an elaborate event, such as a romantic dinner, etc. in which you spend time together.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 9, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, in my experience, women who have told me the same thing really mean two things: (1) You should get me something; but, (2) Not something so expensive that it embarrasses us both.

Posted by: CowTown | February 9, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I really need a footnote option here.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 9, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I just want to say this is one of my favorite statements of the day,

"She may in fact expect you to read her mind and give her a particular item. [This may have something to do with age. By the time a woman reaches her forties she is pretty certain no man will ever read her mind accurately, and may even welcome that knowledge.] "

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I hereby, second this proposition by DR, posted earlier today:

I'm as open to the possibility that our siencey parts gave rise to our religiousy parts as I am the other way round.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 11:09 AM
Awe and wonder: the common experience of science and theology.

IMHO, science education eschews and ignores the wonder, mostly.

Any discussion of wonder demands the entrance of another dead white guy: Plato. Note: the ideas of Plato do not mix well with the ideas of Aristotle.

We need both Platonic and Aristotelian threads to made sense of the fabric of life.

Posted by: College Parkian | February 9, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, if you're an anomaly, you're not alone. I told Raysdad yesterday "please don't get me anything for Valentine's Day" and I meant it. I'd rather he bring me flowers for no apparent reason (which he does) than because Hallmark has circled a date on the calendar.

Tangent, if your girlfriend is in her 20's please disregard this advice. It takes us many years to get to this state of mind.

Posted by: Raysmom | February 9, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Tangent: buy the roses and the chocolate, you damned fool! The Red Alert claxon is shrieking, the lights are flashing, the Robot is shouting "Warning! Warning! Danger, Tangent, danger!"

BUT: show some class. A single beautiful rose bud -- "I know you said you didn't want flowers, but I saw this and I thought of you." I have found it can be even better if it is something artistic and permanent -- for example, a blown-glass rosebud. A small amount of extremely high-quality chocolate -- "I know you said that you weren't interested in candy, but this stuff is so good, it made me think of you." The critical element is the implication that you associate her with everything in life that is good and beautiful.

Modify appropriately for allergies.

Do not use this argument when buying your girlfriend a puppy.

Posted by: Tim | February 9, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, 'you don't have to' has not and will never imply don't.

It really is quite logical.

Tha'ts my story and I am sticking to it!

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

my head hurts! i am so not pointy

tangent - listen to ivansmom! i hate to say it but it's "girl speak"... she means, "i don't want to be materialistic, i don't want to give in to the hype of valentine's day cuz really i think it's silly... BUT it would be awesome if he'd get me something anyway cuz then i'd know that he really cares and i would find that super sweet!"

*sigh* we women are too damn confusing... yes, i admit it!

Posted by: mo | February 9, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse


I think whatever you give should be something that is helpful,unexpected or something that takes a great deal of effort on our part(men that is).

Doing the laundry for a week,planning the weeks meals,taking the kids away.Then drop in a little keep sake for a reminder.

But what do I know,I have been single most of my life.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 9, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

CP: I might add Jesus in there too; not in terms of soteriology, but ethics. "Love your neighbor." The compassion of his teaching is something that is noticably absent in Greek philosophy (my knowledge of it anyway.)

Ivansmom, dmd, CowTown, SoC: muchas gracias for the wisdom/insight/suggestions. Very helpful.

Posted by: Tangent | February 9, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

thanks to all others who replied when i was typing, as well.

Posted by: Tangent | February 9, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, I am waiting for spellcheck.

How is it that the movable type people have not figured this out?

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

CP--"IMHO, science education eschews and ignores the wonder, mostly."

And it's unfortunate that science is taught that way. I think most scientists do what they do because of the wonder aspect; it's what attracted them to science in the first place.

I agree with dr's statement as well.

Posted by: Dooley | February 9, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

And Tangent, you can't go wrong following RomanceTim's advice. Throw in Raysmom's experience - flowers for no reason - and you'll be safe. In fact, her girlfriends will be in awe and your male friends will be highly annoyed.

A friend gave his wife a surprise party for her 40th birthday - a sit-down dinner for at least 50, with all her friends; he even flew in her family and old college roommate. It went off perfectly, she was astonished, and it was a lovely evening. The other husbands in that age cohort were pretty peeved by the precedent he'd set. On the other hand, he's coasted on birthdays for the intervening couple of years, on the strength of that one event.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 9, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

It always saddened Mrs. D when her flowers eventually died. One Valentine's Day as we were taking a walk together, I saw some wildflowers in a field. On impulse, I selected a particularly attractive one, and told her that one was hers (without picking it).

Much appreciated, and the price was right!

Posted by: Dooley | February 9, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

The event, yes, of course, I forgot: "I just want to spend time with you" means, create a romantic event. Expense is not required, but extreme emotional intimacy is. Thus, sporting events = no; intimate dinner out = yes, depending on the place and the style of your relationship. No fast food, but funky ethnic bistros can be a possibility. Comedy club = no; performance by romantic balladeer = yes. Boisterous party with drinking and numerous ex-girlfriends = no, no, a thousand times no; quiet evening in the apartment with personally-prepared (or at least, personally served) light meal, quality wine, candles, more quality wine, tea (no coffee) = yes, yes, kiss me now, you passionate fool.

You're in LA, right? A walk on the beach is not out of the question.

Posted by: Tim | February 9, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

tangent - tim's advice is PERFECT! (wow tim! who woulda thunk a science geek like you could be so romantic?? and i mean that as a COMPLIMENT!)

Posted by: mo | February 9, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

I want you Tim.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, StorytellerTim, CulinaryTim, and now RomanceTim - a true Renaissance man. Note his successful application of critical thinking skills to the problem posed by romantic communication.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 9, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

for the record - 12:37 was NOT me! (tim's a married man!! sheesh!!!)

Posted by: mo | February 9, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Tim's 12:35--his best Boodle yet.

Now we're talkin'!

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

A couple of most romantic LA moments I can remember involved strolling through the Santa Monica Pier. You could eat, play corny carnival games, ride the bumper cars. It's become a huge theme park now, I'm told, but it could still be fun.

Posted by: CowTown | February 9, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

*note to self -- keep RomanticTim away from GF*


Posted by: Scottynuke | February 9, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

What can I say? I am a trained observer. I observe, I correlate, I hypothesize, I test, I revise my assumptions. It's what I do.

Plus, I am the Nexus of the Universe. I have multiple gigs.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 9, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, gentlemen; I use my powers, and my semicolons, only for good and for niceness. Never for evil.

Posted by: The *Tims | February 9, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Don't get me anything" or "let us not exchange gifts" means exactly that. Although I prefer it to be an agreement between the two people, rather than a pronoucement ex cathedra from one to the other.

Posted by: Yoki | February 9, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

In the restaurant business I believe Valentines Day is known as amateur night. Meaning only romantic amateurs take their sweethearts out to dinner on that night. Just remember that the world is full of romantic amateurs, and thus all nice restaurants are going to be very full and very busy, thus service will be compromised at most restaurants. Sitting on the floor side by side eating Chinese take out over a coffee table by candle light is more romantic than a restaurant dinner on Valentines Day in my not so humble opinion.

Posted by: omni | February 9, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Tim: actually, I'm closer to Boston. So, while the beach is only a couple miles away, there's nothing that says romantic like a 0 degree windchill, a massive wool coat, and a scarf. and, although I am old enough to die for my country, I can't yet buy wine! dam*. (see, the reason I ask in the first place is my lack of life experience). However, I am a pretty good cook, so there's some potential there.

Thanks to all. Gotta run to class, will be back later to continue my *real* education. :)

Posted by: Tangent | February 9, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I go with Mo's train of thought. Depending on your gf, it could be possible that she'd rather go out for a movie and dinner or something memorable, rather than just get jewelry or food.

She's leaving the romantic expression entirely up to you. You're working without net here, boy. You'll have to do what you THINK is romantic (and original) that plays up your talents and tastes, and see how it flies.

Here's an example-- a neat-freak guy I know cleaned up his slob of a girlfriend's bedroom and strewed it all over with rose petals and filled the room with balloons. She got a card and chocolates, too I think. Trust me, she was talking about it afterwards. (They got married-- he later proposed when he bought his first house)

Another guy I know took his girlfriend out to the movies-- they both liked Lord of the Rings and they watched that. Then he proposed (ring and all) during/after the movie. They also had dinner that day.

So that could be kind of what "you don't HAVE to get me anything" means.

Depends on where you see this relationship going, of course.

SoC, you can buy non-hallmark cards or make your own from a blank card-- I'm sure you can think of a humorous haiku or lawyerese for your wife, no?

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Not me either!

I was reading Reilly's op-ed online here today at the being affiliated with the Voice Of America, as was the son of atomic-bomb-man Alfred Lee Loomis.

Then I migrated over to Wilbon's column (skimmed) here about the gay basketball, player--actually we have a local Express-News sports writer, Buck Harvey, who did the same story yesterday--such an *excellent* writing job that I actually read the front of the sports page. And it had a San Antonio Spurs and a Snickers candy bar angle.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, Tim's advice and beach suggestion are all excellent. But before the walk on the beach, try dinner at Musso & Frank's on Hollywood Blvd. When you call ahead for the reservation, ask for the booth where Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman used to get (they'll know). Then, make sure the waiter mentions it specifically to her. (If it's already booked, tell them to lie and say the booth they give you is the Hammett/Hellman booth anyway.) Have him/her point out other booths and love nooks where other famous couples used to meet/eat/spoon/coo. Ask if they'll have a couple of roses delivered or waiting on the table.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Mudge writes:
The odd thing is, I'm unaware of anyone working on the question of spirituality as a human attribute, absent some secondary agenda.

Newsweek cover story in the last one or two years: The God Gene.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Omni, you got it! Dinner at home with good company is always best, no need to remain in your place and observe boring restaurant manners.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | February 9, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, Dooley great ideas guys.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

A more recent Newsweek story on the topic of religion and atheism.

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Tangent -- I know you are in class filling up the knowledge nozzle-tank -- but what about creating a booklet for her of fabulous quotation she might like?

You are on a student budget, right? So this costs only your time and effort. AHA! That would be the point. Unique is good, too.

You may also consider renting or buying any of the fab Jane Austen movies out there. Persuasion is my fave but the masses adore Pride and Prejudice and that darkly-mooded Mr. D'arcy. DO NOT BUY OR RENT the hideously-done Mansfield Park....(Others may chime in).

Most women love a romantic, costumey, period set piece. Look for "Lady Grey" tea in your better Boston grocery and brew a pot.

Snuggle. Enjoy. Wonder and awe may ensure. Film at 11.

Posted by: College Parkian | February 9, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting tangent started by Tangent. *Tim, you rock.

Travelling this aft; good weekend, all.

Posted by: SonofCarl | February 9, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Wonder and awe may enSUE. Film at 11.
No field report necessary here.

Posted by: College Parkian to Tangent | February 9, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Good Points CP, I might add to your list, "The Importance of Being Ernest" (Oscar Wilde), it is fun and charming.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Ooops. Sorry, Tangent. Wrote my suggestion thinking you were in LA. (Anybody else in LA, feel free to borrow.)

Boston, huh? Hmmm. If it was me, I'd try a drive down to the Cape and a comfy bed-and-breakfast, with dinner in a funky local lobster house or chowder place. Stop in lots of antique stores and Yankee Candle stores along the way. While she's browsing and you're going out of your skull with boredom, think of England and the Queen. Or something. Red Sox batting averages. Whatever.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, we know when your mind is somewhere else. Whether we let you get away with it or not, that's different. But we know.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 9, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I know you know, LiT, and we appreciate your discretion. But after all, we learned this trick from your gender, you know, from...uh...other similar circumstances. The difference, of course, is that when you folks are thinking of England, we mostly just don't know or care.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Here is something that I would enjoy, even if I'd requested no gift.

Slouching around a farmers market, or an antique district, having a coffee some place. It might happen that during the course of the day I might see something for which I expressed some enthusiasm; an exotic pear or some heirloom tomatoes or a rare cheese (or a single antique teacup or serving spoon, or something), and it might further happen that when we arrived back home to make dinner that very item were presented to me "because I enjoyed our day together so much." And it might still further happen that the bestowing companion would receive something he values just as highly :)

Posted by: Yoki | February 9, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, each to their own taste, but I wouldn't call it valentine's day fun. The Cape in February? Brr.

And, what, no pirate n wench stuff?

I know a woman who enjoys taking her dates to a second-hand bookstore that has a cafe. I think she's a genius. After all, no matter how bad the date goes, she can always go home with a good book instead.

And that's how I regard the antiquing idea... something you can do to avoid your blind date if need be.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

DMD suggests as Valen-tinged the excellent film

"The Importance of Being Ernest" (Oscar Wilde), it is fun and charming.

Laughing mightily since I recommended this to a younger brother of "available" sort and he looked at me dumbfounded, "You mean the Earnest-dude movies?"

I believe that is a goofy character from the late 80s?

What other luscious costumey movies without an overly dark side -- Dangerous Liasons is too complex and anti-love -- might we prose?
(help me out here gals and sensitive new age guys)

A Room with a View
Howard's End

Wow. Go with Merchant Ivory prods.; A&E events; good ole PBS...

As for Mudge and "thinking of England" the costuming here proffers the presents on a platter, so you won't suffer too much.

Corsets are the original WonderBees; the foundation garment before that was known as a bodice. This boardlike fully laced structure was sometimes spelled in olden times as a "bodies"..

with this costume-factoid, I will leave you.

Posted by: College Parkian | February 9, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

We're much more skilled. We don't get caught -- unless we want to.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 9, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

How about a good movie adaption of a Shakespearean comedy, CP? That is, if you dig Shakespeare.

For instance "Twelfth Night/ Love Labor's lost". That dude also wrote some nice love sonnets, you know.

Not sure I'd recommend "Shakespeare in Love", though.

I definitely would say watching Lord of the Rings would win points with many women ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

You know a movie I *love love love* and find romantic, but also kind of interesting? Immortal Beloved. And the title should get you some brownie points with your beloved.

Posted by: Yoki | February 9, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

On the Valentine's gift-or-not-to-gift: Once long ago, in my sevenswans youth, I lived (briefly) with a person that managed to be sent off on work trips just about every possible holiday. That first lonely Valentine's day, I wandered into a pet store and fell in love with a baby angora bunny (named her Valentine!). This was not quite my fault; the store clerk thought holding her might cheer me up and took her out of the cage and placed her in my hands, where she promptly snuggled down and looked up at me. Cutely. When the prodigal returned home, the bunny was making free of the household. After a lonely birthday when the same thing happened, I added two lively Peruvian guinea pigs. The relationship didn't last much longer past that, but I had a nice menagerie to solace me.

I guess the motto is, if you're living with an animal lover and there's room in the house, flowers and chocolate might actually be cheaper in the long run.

Posted by: sevenswans | February 9, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Completely off topic, feel free to skip:

I was just out for my "lunchbreak" walk--80 degrees here, sunny, blue sky with white puffy storybook clouds, very nice. I was pondering a passage from Thoreau that I read this morning, in which he describes all the employment offers he had received while "travelling."

I have at times been applied to to do work when on a journey; to do tinkering and repair clocks, when I had a knapsack on my back. A man once applied to me to go into a factory, stating conditions and wages, observing that I succeeded in shutting the window of a railroad car in which we were travelling, when the other passengers had failed. "Hast thou not heard of a Sufi, who was hammering some nails into the sole of his sandal; an officer of cavalry took him by the sleeve, saying, Come along and shoe my horse." Farmers have asked me to assist them in haying, when I was passing their fields. A man once applied to me to mend his umbrella, taking me for an umbrella-mender, because, being on a journey, I carried an umbrella in my hand while the sun shone. Another wished to buy a tin cup of me, observing that I had one strapped to my belt, and a sauce-pan on my back.

My Thoreau meditations were interrupted by a man working in a group of landscapers--they were planting flowers--who said to me, "Excuse me, ma'am; east is that way?" The direction he was pointing was, in fact, north. "East is that way," I answered, indicating the direction where may be found, about 1/2 mile away, the Atlantic Ocean. We could practically smell the salt air from where we were standing; nevertheless, the man was "dis-oriented," so to speak, so I was happy to re-orient him, and was happy to realize that, like Thoreau, I can be of service even when I'm en route.

Posted by: kbertocci | February 9, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Yes, of course each to his/her own taste, Wilbrod, but I was sort of assuming Tangent would know instantly whether idea X, Y, or Z would appeal to his signif. other, the lovely and talented Cosine.

But looking beyond the antique stores and candle shops, I would generally recommend a nice weekend road trip, simply because being together next to each other in a car for two days is often a pleasant experience no matter what the destination--no TV, no phones (well, one hopes), music of choice coming from the radio/DVD/cassette player, lots of time to talk, etc. Down in this neck of the woods, for people who don't like antiquing, I'd recommend a trip through the Virgian countryside visting vineyards and wineries (if you are into that sort of thing), a trip along Skyline Drive, a trip "donnashore" (as we say in Philly).

One of the more romantic "events" ("date" isn't the right word) I ever had with my old (ex-) Sig Other back in the early 1970s was a car trip donnashore in the dead of winter. Three hours down, 10 minutes on the beach huddled and freezing our butts off and looking at a gray sullen ocean, then back in the car, coffee and splitting a piece of pie at a diner, and three hours back. A great day--but on paper absolutely nothing to recommend itself. (Of course, you both have to tolerate car trips, or it is pointless.)

Or you could, indeed, stay home and play "The Bad, Bad Pirate and the Naughty Serving Wench," as you suggest, Wilbrod. Of course, the advantage of the road trip is Wilbrodog can come along. Not so much with the other thing, I wouldn't think. But hey, I'm not being judgemental here.

On a related matter, the infamous Pina Colada Song mentions the much-cliched "walk in the rain." I'm wondering how many boodlers have ever actually had a romantic "walk in the rain" and did you like it (was it all it is cracked up to be)? Discuss.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

City of Angels, if we're talking immortals.

Many movies starring Megan Ryan (You've got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle), etc. are decent romance movies, but odds are the date's already seen those. If not, they're not bad.

But romantic doesn't have to be watching "love movies".

For some people, watching a new movie based on a beloved childhood book or character might be a winner.

(Charlotte's Web, Winnie the Pooh, etc.)

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Virgian should be Virginia, of course. But I shudder to contemplate the near-Freudian nature of that typo, at my age. Jeez.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't have a prayer of being as erudite and eloquent as bc, kbertocci, mudge, tim and others on the science and spirituality topic.

I just wanted to add that there is a difference between religion and spirituality. A big difference.

Dooley, thanks for adding that the sense of wonder is what brings so many to the study of science. Certainly this is true for me.

I have found it very hard to sustain my sense of wonder and connection to the universe inside most religious traditions. I have tried.

Certain practices (meditation being the foremost) help me to sustain my "spiritual" nature in a world gone mad.

Gardening too!!! :-)

Posted by: nelson | February 9, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, that scurvy dog would walk the plank first, of course.

I guess it depends on the person. You do not want to drive with "Airport Boy".

I had an ex with whom weekend trips were almost always a disaster. On the other hand, we did travel for extended vacations just great, as long as his hands were not in contact with the steering wheel and he could talk in the car, too.

It's just one aspect of being deaf-- it's hard to talk to the driver, and you can't exactly plug in an audio book to listen to or make fun of, so that's one long quiet trip.

Sometimes you can get music loud enough to feel, but then you risk being pulled over for noise pollution.

So that's why I tend to go well, weekend trips can be a disaster. My personal experience is that no weekend trip drive should be over 2 hours one-way if possible.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

My conniving romance skills are poppin' today; I'll have to remember some of this stuff for next week.

A tricky problem is that Valentine's Day is in February. That makes it the province of lovers with some money, since it requires a suitable in-door ambience. May is much better, as you can set up a humdinger of a picnic. Alas, rain-checks do not work -- but remember the value of invoking "Valentine's Day (Observed)" some time in the later Spring.

Underage, are we? Sparkling apple cider or grape juice, then. No getting this gal drunk, you cad. Also, I am shocked, SHOCKED, by Yoki's suggestiveness regarding the relationship between two such youngsters. I prefer to pretend that I know nothing about such doings. My own suggestiveness on the subject was BEFORE Tangent mentioned being underage for wine.

Tangent, let me tell you -- in the long haul, there is nothing, NOTHING, that excites the envy of your girlfriend's gal friends better than cooking for her and doing the dishes. Doing the dishes together is even better. There is nothing that excites a person's interest like knowing that everyone else is interesed. A meal of even moderate decency, made by your own hands, will get you modest romantic rewards immediately. But by a week later, you will be Superman. If, perchance, you marry this girl, you will be earning praise and compliments for decades. Trust me on this one, I have experience.

If you don't have access to a proper kitchen (I don't recall if you have mentioned your living arrangements), there is much that you can do with a knife, a cutting board, some vegetables, and a few store-bought food items. Strawberry-walnut salad with a light vinaigrette. Good french bread. A small selection of good cheeses (splurge on the cheese). Grapes. Fruit juice.

If you are cooking in your parents' kitchen, so much the better -- it eliminates the hint of a food-for-sex expectation (which raises your romantic credibility enormously), and shows that you are a dutiful and trustworthy person by virtue of the care that you will take with keeping the kitchen clean. Unless your parents are scary, you can only win this way. Even better, if you make a SECOND meal (or more of the first) and arrange to serve it to your parents somewhere else in the house. It keeps them busy and out of your way; it acknowledges that they are around (thus establishing the purity of your romantic devotion); it establishes that your romantic character is no mere charade (because you are working to maintain your parents' romance); it shows that your parents trust you enough to eat what you have cooked; it demonstrates your bona fides as a dutiful and devoted person.

Obviously, family complexities may require copious modification. These are options, not an instruction manual.

Also, if you serve dinner in your parent's house, you need to have a private outing planned for after-dinner.

Posted by: Tim | February 9, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The Anna Nicole story continues to get stranger and stranger, I feel for the poor baby.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

With $474 million up for grabs, she might end up as the next Athina Onassis -- poor little rich girl.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 9, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

For fans, Prairie Home Campanion had its 8th annual all-jokes show this past weekend, and you can listen to the whole show at

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes, most romantic walk of my the rain.

Who: Claes Henning, the fair and blonde son of Sweden's Olympic pentathalon coach.
When: Summer of 72
Where: lanes on the hills above Prien am Chiemsee, Bavaria, Germany

When I went looking for Claes, trying to find him several years ago, I found Sweden's other Claes Henning, the handsome and dark graphic designer. A reproduction of one of Claes II's paintings hangs on one of our walls. :-)

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

How weird would it be to have Zsa Zsa as your stepmother?
"Time für bett, dahlink..."

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Critical thinking is of little use if the most important piece of information you need is unknowable, such as the intentions of a foreign leader.

Posted by: mrk | February 9, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Surely critical thinking skills would be vitally important in forming contingency plans in uncertain situations, such as when you don't know the intentions of a foreign leader?

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Of course, absent critical thinking skills, bet on the guy with the biggest army/nacy/air force.

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

SCC: nacy=navy. (The guys with the botes.)

Posted by: byoolin | February 9, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Ah, an on-topic post!

mrk, I have to disagree strongly. Critical thinking is at its most important when you have to confront a range of uncertain possibilities. You need to be prepared for many possible choices and actions by the foreign leader in question. You need to prepare to defend against (or actively prevent) undesirable choices by other leaders, and encourage the desirable choices. Where the present adminstration has dramatically failed is in their assumption that foreign leaders will choose to behave in a way that is most advantageous to our interests. It has somehow not occurred to them to consider the motivation of foreign leaders as springing from a desire to maintain and consolidate personal power, a motivation which generally will drive a leader to act AGAINST the U.S. in order to consolidate his own independent authority within his own country. All politics is local.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 9, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I want to veer to biology, immunology and politics for a moment before this material gets too old, also appropos for Valentine's Day [protect the one(s) you love]:

From Wednesday's local op-ed page, two items:

The first-on-the-page letter to the editor from writer Kathi Marton, a graf:

One has to wonder, too, why the vaccine against human papillomavirus wasn't developed for males, who, to put it delicately, are the ones who "introduce" HPV into a girl. Why are not all little boys being forced to take this vaccine, too?

**Precisely my sentiments, as I Boodled last weekend.

From the lead op-ed Wednesday on our local paper, titled, "Gov. Perry, rescind vaccine order now," several grafs from the end of the op-ed:

Others could interpret your unusual stance--coming from a Christian conservative--as an attempt to broaden your voter base and adopt a "get things done" approach in anticipation of future elected office.

You have said that the HPV vaccine is no different from the vaccine from polio, which has practically eliminated that desstrictive disease.

For many of us older Americans, we are carrying simian [KISS science: monkey] 40 virus in our system because early polio vaccines--the inactivated polio vaccine or the oral polio vacine delivered via sugar cube--were developed by growing the culture in monkey kidney substrates.

From Brit Edward Hooper's book, titled "The River: The Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS," (in which Helotes Mayor Jon Allan is mentioned) the following passage, p. 173-4:

He [Gerry Myers of the HIV Sequence Database and Analysis Project set up at Los Alamos by NIH in 1985] went on to give examples of adventitious viruses that had accidentally contaminated vaccines. First, he said, hundreds of thousands of Americans had been infected with a simian virus, SV40, through the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines. This was actually the fortieth contaminating monkey virus to be discovered in monkey kidneys, but fortunately it appeared that neither SV40, nor any of the others, had incresed people's susceptibility to diseases such as cancer.

Yet, Googling this past week leads me to believe that Simian 40 virus and the human papilloma virus, which causes cancer, are similar. Helotes Mayor and simian virus and immunology researcher Jon Allan, heeeelp meeeeeee.....!

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey Boodlers, I was just skimming a recent Mommy Blog (an occasional bad habit when I'm really trying to let my subconscious work) and saw bad news. It seems Pat's (aka Father of 4) brother-in-law succumbed to leukemia this week. That was quick. If you're lurking, Pat, I'm so sorry.

Posted by: Ivansmom | February 9, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

KB! Reading stretches aloud of HD Thoreau is romantic! And I believe doing so chimes bothe the

spirituality chime AND
nature-boy sciency chime.

Nelson: the great struggle of spirituality and religion continues. I ultimately find that all structures -- institutions, theologies, theories -- are a kind of imperfect vessel that allows infinite water to momentarily reach my lips.

Comparative study of religious traditions helps me with my spiritual muscles. Most arrive -- wonder of wonder! -- at these biggies:

service TO OTHERS!!!!!!!!

The rest may be mostly windowdressing and some truly dross and veil.

Oh the humanity of it all, we bunglers on good days and downright jerks on others.....

Posted by: College Parkian | February 9, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Read any random Tom Sietsema or Chowhound post and you will be dissuaded from going for the "romantic" dinner on Valentines. It's like deciding you just want to go out for a drink on New Years Eve.

I already cook three nights a week, so that just makes it Wednesday. We have decided to go to our favorite sushi place that is quiet, but nobody is going to mistake it for a place with white table cloths and candles. Since we go there often, maybe they will recognize us

Anthony Bourdain suggests picking a restaurant and making it your "place" by going two or three times a week for a while. He says to make sure you go on weekdays and chat with the staff when they aren't busy.

We are on a first name basis with Donna of the Baltimore mini-chain called Donna's. She was holding cooking classes at the location down the street from us, so we took several classes and now she recognizes us whenever we come in.

Several years ago we were at a destination restaurant in NY called Nougatine. It's one of the fanciest places we have ever been. The couple next to us were joking with the waiters about deserving a free lobster for being frequent diners. You can make any price restaurant "your place". It's just a matter of becoming known.

Posted by: yellojkt | February 9, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for that heads-up, Ivansmom.

Pat, if you're out there, my condolences to you, your wife, and your family.


Posted by: bc | February 9, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Pat I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your brother-in-law.

Thanks Ivansmom.

Posted by: dmd | February 9, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Pat, you and your family have my sincerest condolences.

Posted by: LostInThought | February 9, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Back for a little bit.
Wonderful suggestions and advice from all. Alas, 'Mudge, I am cursed by the "poor college student" label, ergo, I do not have wheels, so road trip is out.
Tim: I live on campus, so my cooking options are a little limited. I have access to a kitchen, but not private space in/near it. However, real food and then going somewhere else for alone time is always an option. The menu could get exciting, b/c most of what I cook involves either garlic or cheese (or both); or, I should say, my signature dishes involve said ingredients.
In terms of the sentimental, she loves listening to me play the piano, so the possibility of a favorite (or even perhaps an original) song is on the table. As are movies; we have very similar taste, which is great. LOTR is a favorite of hers, as is Star Wars; I have a surprisingly high tolerance for chick flicks as well, which could come in handy
I dunno, I think I'll probably go with quality time, food, music on V-Day itself, and then surprise her a couple days later with flowers. Once again, thanks a lot; sorry for hijacking the boodle for a little while there.

Back to critical thinking:
byoolin: I would say that critical thinking is also imperative when you don't know the intentions of *your own* leader, let alone foreign ones.

Posted by: Tangent | February 9, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Also, a review of game or decision theory is always helpful. Turns out some human interactions indeed can be modelled by math, Mudge.

Even with "uncertainity" and unreliable leaders, you can at least figure out their possible biases and information gaps and play that angle.

Know thine enemy and know thyself and you shall be victorous.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Tanget is talented: "...possibility of a favorite (or even perhaps an original) song is on the table...."

Tangent, this beats quotes.
Etude for Ethyl.
Interlude for Iris.
Concerto for Cosine

Go for it. Send us the mp3 or wave file later.


Posted by: College Parkian | February 9, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

As it happens, Wilbrod, I am writing a novel that uses a game theory "truth table" as a central plot device. (But it doesn't solve the mystery.) Started chapter 4 in Cancun over Xmas. Can't say more.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Back to the start of "comments." Isn't this:


what got George Allen in such trouble?

Posted by: nellie | February 9, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Always consider what would be the greatest inconvenience to you, from among the options available to your enemies/opponents. Then assume that that is reasonably close to what your enemy intends. Unless your enemies are crazy or stupid, they already are thinking about how to most effectively trouble/hobble/incapacitate you. If they are crazy or stupid, then they will be doing something less effective at troubling you, but you will be prepared against the worst they could muster. Your friends can be relied upon to be only marginally less hostile to your interests; after all, they have interests, too, and our voters will not help their leaders to stay in power.

For example: Saddam's most inconvenient action was to NOT have WMD's, because it made us look like fools. Having WMD's would easily justify any invasion plan. If Saddam had had WMD's, he could not use them. If he had used them, it would have immediately brought about the end of his own regime, because the rest of the world would have either invaded (as we ultimately did), or simply nuked the nation. Therefore, it made more sense for Saddam to expend resources on internal security, rather than useless weapons for external war. It was the choice that best served his personal ambition. I worked all this out back in 2002-2003, before the war -- not because I'm so darned prescient, but because Saddam's motivations were so obvious. Saddam was wicked, not stupid. The Bushies ASSUMED the intentions of a foreign leader, Saddam, because they imagine they know how evil will act. (This is an interesting psychological insight, don't you think?) They SHOULD have assumed petty ambition, rather than monomaniacal insanity. Then they could have arrived at the right answer. Unfortunately, the nation's leaders neglected to ask for my sage advice.

Posted by: Tim | February 9, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

My condolences Pat. You and your family will be in all our thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: omni | February 9, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

ah...nellie, took me a few seconds to get it, very funny...

Which brings up Nellie McKay...just got her new cd. I am so out of here, and the first thing on tonights agenda is to give a listen.

Have a good weekend everyone, and stay warm...

Posted by: omni | February 9, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I would not bet on the guy with the biggest army/navy/airforce byoolin. That hasn't worked out well in the 20th century.

Better bet, bet on the guy who stands to lose the most and the guy who will still be there after the conflict is over.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Pat, I'm very sorry. I'm thinking about you and your family.

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 9, 2007 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh Pat, I am so sorry to hear that. My conolences to your whole family.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Runnin' for the bus early--got a daughter's birthday party to go to, then probably driving a grandson to his junior high school dance. Gotta grab that quality time with the grandkids whenever and however you can.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 9, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Drive safely, 'Mudge!

Posted by: Scottynuke | February 9, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

J.R. Searle is a philosopher who holds out against artificial intelligence (read, science) being able to model the human mind. He says that's the case more or less by definition -- computers can't model consciousness or intentionality. One could argue that a computer can't feel hungry, and even if one did, so what, because a computer doesn't need food. AI folks would say that in principle a computer can knowledge of itself, its situation, and its environment, and reason with that like a person; maybe that shouldn't be called consciousness, but so what again.
... and Wiki for more about him.

I'm finished -- you can send it, Hal.

Posted by: LTL-CA | February 9, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

from a book I read somewhere:
"no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy."
thought it fit the discussion about critical thinking and the war.

back to lurkdom

Posted by: fromlurkdom | February 9, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Well, a well-formed plan recognizes that first you act, and then nature and the enemy together conduct a lottery, and then you have to deal with the results of that, and so on perhaps for a few iterations. That might lead to a large number of possible outcomes, each with some sort of estimate of cost or benefit, and likelihood. That should all be in the plan. A plan doesn't guarantee an outcome, but means you are likely to be prepared for whatever the outcome is. It seems that was not how the Iraq plan was constructed, which was more like, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if we could...."

Posted by: LTL-CA | February 9, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, such math is in its infancy. Wait until Hari Seldon is born and invents psychohistory ;).

Meanwhile as you scribble, enjoy your reeling, writhing, uglification, derision, and fainting in coils.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

fromlurkdom, that's a clever quote, but over-confident in its certainty. There have been numerous military leaders (some discussed here, in just the past week) who succeeded by maneuvering the enemy to attack in a way that neutralized the enemy's principal advantages, handing victory to the better strategist. In those cases, the battle plan worked. One must be prepared to abandon one's battle plan, based on evidence; but one should nevertheless work out a battle plan, and include contingency and chance as operable elements. An over-strong faith in the uselessness of battle plans is encouragement to a fool to be caught in an opponent's trap. Viewed as a warning that a battle plan must be tempered by realism, then it is useful. But you still need a battle plan.

My suspicion is that the author of the quote is probably some famously victorious general. U.S. Grant, maybe. But you know, Grant did not have a reputation for achieving elegant victories. He had more of a reputation for hammering his foes with overwhelming force. Nice, if you have it, but no consolation to the men who served as cannon fodder.

Posted by: Tim | February 9, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Another "something we don't see everyday" story about vicious senior citizens whopping attacking animals. Must be something in the air.

And here's why you should never take a dog along on a proposal:

Although that'd be a proposal to remember. (And an easy comic scene to write.)

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry, Pat, about your brother-in-law, good thoughts your way and family.

I am not one of the pointy-head types described on this blog. The Scriptures tell us that men start wars because one man has something another man wants, so he takes it. Doesn't ask for it, simply takes it.

JA, is it okay if I use the list you wrote for critical thinking? I want to show that to the kids.

Our hearts are not good. We don't love one another. And so we try desperately to replace that love we should have with something else. Anything. Money, sex, material possessions, you name it, the list is endless. In fact, we laugh at people when they love, truly love. We've become such a cynical bunch, loving is foreign to us, it's so ... outdated? But then we don't know how to love. And I most certainly include myself in that group. Our Creator is love, yet we deny, and despise that piece of truth. So we self-destruct, because the heart knows exactly what it needs, even if the mind does not.

The g-girl is tearing up something in the bathroom, and I am dreading the idea of going in there, but in there I must go. Hope to get back later.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 9, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I think courtship as love is overhyped, when it's the long-term love that matters. Friends, family, even strangers.

It'd be nice if for one day we all went back to the days when we gave everybody in the classroom valentines and candy just because that was the right thing to do so nobody'd feel left out-- and because our parents told us we had to.

We should all make the ones we love feel special; but let's not forget that too often that we circumscribe such sentiments to romantic love only, or when we are really drunk on New Year's Eve and ready to slumphug people and say "I love you, man...."

(Remember, "slumphug" was coined right here on this boodle only yesterday. I hope it survives.)

February 15: National Slumphug day.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, use that list to your heart's content.

I should note that the authors of the book actually took the list from two other writers, psychologists Carole Wade and Carol Tavris.

Posted by: Achenbach | February 9, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Romantic Tim, I really enjoyed your posts today, and will be passing some of your ideas on to sons of R. They need all the help they can get.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh, thank goodness... I thought Joel had killed it.

Posted by: TBG | February 9, 2007 6:42 PM | Report abuse

In the the interest of the continued life of the boodle...

I have absolutely nothing to say except that I am about to leave my desk and I am going to the beverage store to buy wine in a cardboard box. We will probably have legume stew for dinner with it. Yes the R household is going to live the high life this weekend.

Good times.

Posted by: dr | February 9, 2007 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Just for giggles, I'll point out that many would debate that Cachaça is a rum at all, because (they would maintain) rums are made from molasses. It's probably technically correct to call it (and other fermented sugar cane juice spirits) a brandy, if you must put it into a larger category.

Ahhh, who cares. Just add fruit juice & enjoy!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Another thing that I've mentioned before -

A buddy of mine in Sacramento (I knew him in the 80's) came from a family who owned a vinyard, and they produced small-batch wines for mostly-local buyers. Small (like many things) is relative, of course. They produced several thousand bottles per year. But the wine that they kept for themselves and favored friends & customers was always packaged in the bag-in-box, because they truly didn't believe that a better system existed for maintaining the quality of a good wine.

So there ya' go!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Forgot to mention, when I got home from the laundry room yesterday, there was a card in my box. It was a big card, a Valentine card sent to me by a young boy, but I can't remember him by his name. On the envelope, he had, Grandma Cassandra. I thought, this is really special, this is so nice. I am not good with names, but can remember the faces.

On the way to the center, I stopped and bought two bags of bubble gum for the kids. They're always asking me for chewing gum, so I got bubble gum. I love giving them candy, not always, because I know it's not good for them, but sometimes, because I can get a little tough with them about the lessons. So I give candy to sweeten the toughness.

Have a good weekend, everyone. And as always give God some of your time, show your family how much you love them, and try to get some rest.

Posted by: Cassandra S | February 9, 2007 7:36 PM | Report abuse

The husband was a bit more than serious BF but not quite elevated to Significant Other when he brought me a Valentines gift I will never forget. The enormous heart shaped box of chocolates, of dubious quality, was accepted graciously and left in the living room while I finished preparing my gift, the oft recommended romantic dinner. After dinner, we retired to said living room with glasses of a favorite wine only to find the chocolates had been consumed, little paper cups and all, by Alex (yes the recently deceased) and Valerie (Giscard d'Estang-a Brittany Spaniel of course). I managed to get both dogs outside before the eruptions began. First they would convulse from one end, then the other. We stayed up through the night checking on the dogs every thirty minutes as directed by the vet. It took a full two days for them to puke and poop it all out. I came out of the experience being very thankful for that cheap old chocolate. The relationship never would have survived two dead dogs, no matter how accidental the poisoning.

Posted by: frostbitten | February 9, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

The romantic ideas were really good, although I skimmed them quite awhile ago at work, so I can't recall them all specifically. (plus I have a cold and I'm really tired.) I would only add that if she said not to get anything, but you give her something anyway, keep it simple - nothing too expensive or fancy. Especially if you're not quite sure of the relationship yet. I don't think you can go wrong with flowers or chocolate, but then again, if she's allergic or on a diet...See, now I'm obsessing...I don't like roses so much - one of my favorite bouquets was some purple statice that my first serious boyfriend gave me, for no occasion. It dried and lasted for a long time - even after he was gone! Good luck, Tangent.

I came home a bit early, so it's still light out - and some of my species crocus are blooming - cheerful yellow with brown striped outer petal, lavender and purple. Lifted my spirits.

Posted by: mostlylurking | February 9, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of significant others -
[ from the Kit:

1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder.
2. Define your problem correctly.
3. Examine the evidence.
4. Analyze assumptions and biases.
5. Avoid emotional reasoning.
6. Don't oversimplify.
7. Consider other interpretations
8. Tolerate uncertainty.

Now who does that NOT sound like?
Who brags that he makes a lot of decisions based on gut instinct?
Who has a hard time admitting that he's made a mistake?
Who seems to view doubt as a sign of weakness? ]

When did Joel spend so much time with my ex-wife?

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

The proposed 20-mile long International Linear Collider:

Posted by: bill everything | February 9, 2007 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Talks still ongoing between San Antonio Water System and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality late this evening, but I swung by the TCEQ Stike Force trailers tonight after getting a new medicine, a new inhaler.

Jorge Salazar, TCEQ environmental investigator, said that he learned that SAWS had given the go-ahead to use its water to put out the Helotes brush fire. He added that water will be placed inside the huge, clay-lined sluice pit this weekend to see if everything works and it holds water, without leakage, as it is supposed to do. Salazar believes that firefighting efforts--breaking apart the mulch pile--will begin on Monday.

Television news reported tonight several details of the possible break of the impasse between the two entities--SAWS and TCEQ, including increased water testing, as the firefighting efforts begin.

Helotes Mayor Jon Allan will hold a third public forum this coming Monday evening. You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be there.

Good thing we have insurance provided by Wachovia because my brand-new, piddly little inhaler would cost $120, if we didn't. As it was, it cost pennies shy of $30. The Asian-American pharmacist at HEB, Glenn, said that I could have the same negative reaction with the new inhaler, a perversion of my sense of taste, since the formulation of the drug is similar. He agreed that I'm probably being used, once again, as a drug guinea pig.

Glenn the pharmacist lives near Guilbeau and 1604--in the same area where the IHOP waitress lives who is asthmatic, as I Boodled--and the pharmacist's own wife wakes up every morning coughing, which again I think is interesting anecdotal evidence of the fire's large area of impact.

Nice to see actor Tommy Lee Jones' former Yale roommate, Al Gore, teaming up with Brit billionaire Richard Branson to fight global warming--Jones being the former son-in-law of San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger. *laughing*

Posted by: Loomis | February 9, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

On a (only very slightly) more serious note, the above list of criteria for thinking critically are heavily skewed toward a particular style of critical thinking, which happens to match mine fairly well. But (I think) it's not the only effective style. Both Sam Johnson and H. L. Mencken, to name two who come to mind immediately, would come up short on several items, as would Aristotle and Aquinas. (But not Einstein!)

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm only mildly impressed with the "13,000 person-years" effort required to build this collider. I mean, c'mon, this is China! If they put a billion people on it (that would still leave them a couple hundred thousand to man the telephones, right?) they could have the thing finished in less than fifteen minutes!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think they DID put a billion people to the effort (GDP economy, income, bureaucracy, massaging leaders as they agreed to the collider, etc, sweeping the floors, etc.).

They just estimated the people-years actually spent in contact with the collider, I guess.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

O.K., O.K., I'm chuckling to myself out loud here...

Loomis, pray, do tell... What's the back-story about the "Asian-American pharmacist"? I'm sure there's a reason that you chose to include that tidbit!

On the broader issue, I'm glad that there seems to be some movement toward a solution (as imperfect as it certainly is) for the fire.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 8:12 PM | Report abuse

If you ever get tired of throwing rice...

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I remember Setsubun from my youth in Japan! Much like the gorilla, I was a little unnerved at first (I was only eight or nine the first time) but quickly decided that it was fun, and the beans WERE kind'a tasty!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 8:22 PM | Report abuse

And is that the origin of the phrase "to bean somebody?"

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 8:25 PM | Report abuse

How many dog years is 13,000 person years?

Just wondering

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 9, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - You'll probably get a kick out of this story from this morning.

I park about three blocks from my office. As I walked up the sidewalk (on Duke St. in Alexandria) a woman got out of her car which was parked alongside the curb. She'd apparently been waiting for someone that she felt comfortable approaching for help with directions. She is (it quickly became obvious) deaf and non-speaking. But then it became obvious that the pen she was trying to use wouldn't work in the sub-freezing temperature on the (somewhat glossy) back of the magazine that she was trying to write her question upon.

She was starting to get a little agitated, but I sensed that her main concern was that she was holding me up without being able to accomplish anything. So when I pulled out the little notepad that I nearly always carry, and wrote (with the pen that I pretty much ALWAYS always carry), "Slow down, I'm not in THAT big a hurry! How can I help?", her grin was quite sufficient to light up my whole day.

She was pretty close to her destination, but it was one of those places in a little courtyard-kind-of-thingie off the street. It just happens that I had worked (last year) in that very courtyard-kind-of-thingie, so I walked her to the door. I think it wasn't a bad start to the day for either of us.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Glad she got inside and thawed out, Bob S. You probably pegged her main concern correctly.

A good deed that wasn't punished is always a nice start to the day.

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, Has Merle Haggard found the light? For the last several years he has been living on the largest house boat on Shasta Lake adding to the water and air pollution there. Also he has been raising lots of beef cattle in the area thereby adding to the overall air pollution.

Posted by: bh | February 9, 2007 8:55 PM | Report abuse

This is an interesting article on how open scientific research, particularly biomedical research, should be.

I would say one thing: This industry would almost certainly be put out of business overnight if NIH etc. have their say.

Whether this is good in the long run or not, it would have a short-term devasting impact on thousands of people.

Secondly, it could simply cause publishers to pull their internet versions of their print journals altogether or only distribute on DVDs, bypassing the internet. It might be crippling and very unsatisfactory to scientists worldwide, but it would be the only way they could stay in business.

A partial agreement, to encourage or force publishers to put all research 18 months or older entirely in the public domion, would probably be a more acceptable compromise.

I don't know what those advocacy groups are looking for, but it would seem reasonable for the authors themselves to use PLoS and other avenues of research if they want to be sure their work is accessible over the internet, one hundred percent, or post a copy of their own articles on their websites, or otherwise press the publishers to come to a more equitable use of their work.

I do know I find it very annoying when I can't access an online article, only see the abstract, and the paper is 5-10 years old. Medline has abstracts going back 30 years but they can't post the full text because... you got it.

Anybody else have any thoughts? Joel? SciTim?

Posted by: Wilbrod | February 9, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

bh - It's fascinating that you should bring up that issue at this time. I recently had (actually, am still having) a multi-part conversation with a couple of friends of mine (she is a college lecturer in England, and lives on a houseboat during the school year, he's got a sailboat that he uses seasonally, but is considering the boat-bound life as soon as it's a reasonable option) that covered, among other things, relative amounts of energy use, waste production, etc.

Since we're all numbers-kinda folk, we didn't come to any firm conclusions (we're all doing research), but I think that we all suspect that the economics of living aboard small craft tend to make most (normal-income-sized) boat-dwellers rather less-polluting than most land dwellers.

Since it's mildly inconvenient (and incrementally charged) to empty the holding tank(s), one tends to adopt habits (sparing use of water in the sink, shower, & toilet, mainly) which make it occur less often. While boats are normally hooked up to land-based electrical power at the pier, the habits of conservation instilled while running on battery (and the culture of most of the boating community) tend to mitigate against profligate electricity usage. And producing garbage/trash in amounts approaching the standard suburban household quantity would DEFINITELY be looked at askance in most boating communities.

Of course, none of this has much to do with Merle Haggard, or folks with more money than him. But, there aren't actually all that many of them. Can't we put them all on one lake?

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I hope you, and all the other pointy headed don't consider me as contributing to your bad habit of lurking on the Mommy Blog. [chuckle, chuckle] I do post there quite often, but my kids are my passion at this point in life.

Yes, late October last year, I did mention my brother-in-law getting diagnosed with Leukemia, so I feel I should at least share concluding results. I remember Dad WannaBe, who we haven't heard from a log time, going through a series of unfortunate events, and one that I remember was the event where he sang On Pooh corner with his wife at a very solemn occasion. You may also remember that I posted a snippet about how I got the complete works of Winnie the Pooh as a Christmas present, and my kids have been reading several chapters a week to me. And the day after I fell asleep to Pooh corner, ... as so did my brother-in-law. He was a class act and I'll put some thoughts together after the funeral and post the closing words.

Posted by: Pat | February 9, 2007 9:30 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I should note (she'd think it was funny, but would note that I was incorrect) that my friend in England is a "lecturer at University". Not college!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Pat - while I haven't been there in a while, you may safely assume that you are ENTIRELY responsible for my occasional visits to the Meany-blog!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Pat, I'll look forward to reading that post. My condolences to you and your family.


I'd been wondering why I was having trouble clarifying and expressing my thoughts on this rational thinking/spirituality/religion topic, and I thank both ivansmom and nelson for two comments that helped get my thinking (sort of) back on track -- unjumbling things that had beome unnecessarily jumbled in my mind:

ivansmom, thanks for the reminder that "scientific thinking is merely a subset of critical thinking," and nelson, you wrote, "there is a difference between religion and spirituality. A big difference." Indeed.


Loomis, thanks for posting the article "The New Naysayers." I especially enjoyed the concluding paragraph:

". . . the astronomer Carolyn Porco offers the subversive suggestion that science itself should attempt to supplant God in Western culture, by providing the benefits and comforts people find in religion: community, ceremony and a sense of awe. "Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way," she writes. Porco, who is deeply involved in the Cassini mission to Saturn, finds spiritual fulfillment in exploring the cosmos. But will that work for the rest of the world--for 'the people who want to know that they're going to live forever and meet Mom and Dad in heaven? We can't offer that.' If Dawkins, Dennett and Harris are right, the five-century-long competition between science and religion is sharpening. People are choosing sides. And when that happens, people get hurt."

Posted by: Dreamer | February 9, 2007 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer - You've touched nicely upon one of the profound dilemmas of my adult intellectual life. I was raised amongst church-going folks, and know (from personal experience) that many people of strong religious faith are intelligent and kind and thoughtful beyond compare. But I'm apparently not put together (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, whatever) in such a way as to experience the same gratification from religious faith. I can completely understand intellectually the disdain with which Dawkins & Superfrenchy (just to mention two who come to mind) hold religious faith, even though I can't justify holding the people with that faith in contempt. In the face of self-evident goodness on their part, I'm willing to accept that they have found a path to rational action that is not available to me, but is no less valid.

Ahh, well, in a few decades I won't have to worry about it anymore!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Or maybe next week! Who knows?

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 10:13 PM | Report abuse

This just reinforces my view that logic should be a required subject in high school. It is key to forming a critical mind that demands proof. *In God we trust - all others pay cash.* It makes me think of what the old professor in *The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe* said - *Logic! Why don*t they teach logic in those schools!*

Posted by: Bill T. | February 9, 2007 10:15 PM | Report abuse

From the International Linear Collider article:

>The location of the announcement yesterday, the Institute for High Energy Physics in Beijing, underscores the growing role and ambition of Asia, particularly Japan and China, to become major players in high-energy physics, a field that has been dominated by the United States and Europe in the last century.<

Assuming this ever is built (a significant assumption) (i) who are the players who would decide where it is to be built (i.e., is it just a question of raw political power); (ii) would the siting in a particular location be of significant benefit to the host (sounds like it); (iii) is the Earth becoming flat in this area of physics (as is suggested); and (iv) odds on it ever happening?

Posted by: bill everything | February 9, 2007 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Bill T. - I think that what faith gives to some people (that they would lack without it) is a basis upon which to proceed in the absence of data (from their point of view) upon which to make logical decisions.

It may happen that I'm neurologically wired to look at the interactions of people around me, and come to a set of conclusions about what behavior works to make me and those around me happy in the long run, consider that to be fairly obvious, and proceed along my merry way living a resonably virtuous life without feeling much need for recourse to higher authority. My appreciation for the underlying order of the cosmos that creates this state of things is very real to me, and often a cause for joy.

I get the distinct impression that many other people don't perceive those same patterns so readily, and have a much harder time distinguishing between short- and long-term consequences (both positive and negative) of behavior, and get very real comfort from having a sense of a hands-on referee, rather than just a rulebook.

Again, I'm (almost certainly more than halfway through my life) still grappling with these concepts, but I think that's more-or-less the situation. What definitely makes no sense to me is the demand that people "think more logically!" about something as deep as the nature of being. I'm pretty sure that most people think about it as logically as they are capable of doing.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 10:36 PM | Report abuse

bill everything -- umm... well, it's just a fancy microscope, really. It's gonna find what it's gonna find, no matter where it's built, and no matter who looks through it. Obviously, there are local benefits to be gained by spending money on construction & operation of the device, but they're pretty pale compared to a new Disneyland park.

If there's a crapload of money to be gained by having one, Wal-Mart & Richard Branson will have a newer, bigger one built within a couple of years, never you worry!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 9, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Of the three candidate sites mentioned -- Fermilab near Chicago, CERN near Geneva, and somewhere in Japan -- I would bet the Japanese one, using the analogy of the way the World Cup soccer tournament is rotated around the world. Unless the high frequency of earthquakes in Japan might be an issue. (What have I missed?)

Posted by: LTL-CA | February 9, 2007 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Bob S. writes // I get the distinct impression that many other people don't perceive those same patterns so readily, and have a much harder time distinguishing between short- and long-term consequences (both positive and negative) of behavior, and get very real comfort from having a sense of a hands-on referee, rather than just a rulebook. //

I sometimes have that thought, too, and, like you, it's an anthropologist's notebook observation rather than something I have shared. It's interesting to me that the pattern of virtuous life you describe is the group's mores, which is reinforced by the weekly bonding meetings, and IMHO really doesn't have anything to do with God, even though it might be attributed to God as the ultimate source. I guess an exception should be made for groups (religions, sects, tribes, whatever) that feel they have an especially close relationship with God because somehow God chose one of their early members to make a deal on behalf of all humans on Earth, or God was an original ancestor via some sort of relationship that culminated in reproduction, or something like that. Then it's not just a pattern of virtuous behavior, it's exclusive to that group.

Posted by: LTL-CA | February 9, 2007 11:35 PM | Report abuse

More from Dawkins:
[Sorry -- I'm sure I'll get him out of my system soon enough, as I move on to some other book.]

"If there is no God, why be good? Posed like that, the question sounds positively ignoble. When a religious person puts it to me in this way (and many of them do), my immediate temptation is to issue the following challenge: 'Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God's approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment? That's not morality, that's just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base thought.' As Einstein said, 'If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.' Michael Shermer, in 'The Science of Good and Evil,' calls it a debate stopper. If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would 'commit robbery, rape, and murder,' you reveal yourself as an immoral person, 'and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you.' If, on the other hand, you admit that you would continue to be a good person even when not under divine surveillance, you have fatally undermined your claim that God is necessary for us to be good. I suspect that quite a lot of religious people do think religion is what motivates them to be good, especially if they belong to one of those faiths that systematically exploits personal guilt. It seems to me to require quite a low self-regard to think that, should belief in God suddenly vanish from the world, we would all become callous and selfish hedonists, with no kindness, no charity, no generosity, nothing that would deserve the name of goodness."

-- from "The God Delusion," by Richard Dawkins

Posted by: Dreamer | February 9, 2007 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Filling in some blanks: the guy who said "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" was German Count (Graf) Helmut von Moltke (called Moltke the Elder, because his nephen, also named Helmut von Moltke, led the German Army at the start of WWI). Moltke was the great Prussian field marshal of his day, and was Bismarck's right-hand military man during the unification of Germany; he also led Germany's successful wars against Austria and the Franco-Prussian War, during which the Germans pretty much routed and embarrassed the French at Sedan. (Yeah, I'm running for the bunker, anticipating an air raid at any moment by you-know-who, but all I'm doin' is recitin' history.)

Despite the initial sound of the quote, though, doesn't mean Moltke didn't believe in war planning; he did, was very, very good at it, and was one of the great strategists of the 19th century. But since Moltke believed a war plan disintegrated pretty quickly, what he believed in was planning for all possible contingencies and "what-ifs." He would not, in other words, have ever planned a debacle like the invasion of Iraq by Mad King George.

Bill T, I think teaching logic per se is a bit overrated; what they should teach is what is called "argumentation," which is the construction of arguments, and dissection of the various kinds of fallacies, such as straw man, bandwagon, argument from authority, etc. Much more practical in the real world than pure syllogisms. (Not that they shouldn't teach some basic logic, too.)

On Letterman, Frank Caliendo just came on under the guise of his John Madden imitation, discussing the Super Bowl, which was very funny. And now my second-favorite kitchen goddess Rachel Ray is lon, and looking very...perky. And since we like to keep this boodle clean and family oriented, I guess I won't discuss her cleavage or the fact that it is apparently very, very cold on Letterman's set. Let us just say my attention was riveted.

I think it's time for bed now. Gotta do a lot of bathroom tile grouting tomorrow (oh joy. Shoot me now.)

'Night, boodle. Have a nice weekend.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 10, 2007 12:19 AM | Report abuse

'mudge -- in no particular order:

I'm tiling tomorrow too! Here's to beautiful bathrooms!!

Speaking of Mad King George's, I think that Moltke had learned a bit from the unsuccessful English foray(s) against the North American colonies!

I completely agree that it's important (very important) to recognize logical fallacies when they're presented. But, once a fallacious argument is exposed as such, ya still gotta figger out where (and why) you're going to make your stand.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 10, 2007 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Bob S. reports that a vineyard put out some excellent wine in plastic-bag-in-a-box. I have never heard anything but derision from wine geeks about that packaging method, although it makes sense in that it keeps the air out. But I believe I can taste the plastic with plastic wine glasses. Can anyone elaborate on that, like why there is no plastic taste?

Posted by: LTL-CA | February 10, 2007 12:55 AM | Report abuse

According to the Wikipedia entry for box wine/wine casks, the bag within the box is "aluminized" -- maybe that accounts for the lack o' placky taste?

Posted by: Achenfan | February 10, 2007 1:10 AM | Report abuse

I have come to enjoy wine over the past two years.I was so much a beer drinker before that.

But now wine is #1 on my list.I have not tried the box wines.Maybe sometime in the future.

I have developed a taste for Port lately too.It is amazing how much my tastes have changed since I started drinking wine and moved away from beer.

I guess like a good aged wine so have my tastes evolved as I have gotten older.

I can even get the cork out in less then 10 seconds.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | February 10, 2007 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Enough of the God/science kick already! Let's get back to dealing with Tangent's question. Some good suggestion so far--I PARTICULARLY liked the Malibu beach concept; would accept Waikiki as a substitute. Would also be open to a more financially secure offeror. Let's keep those thoughts rolling!

Posted by: Cosine | February 10, 2007 1:51 AM | Report abuse

The reason that he american public is so misinformed as happened with Iraq is the same reaswon we had the Spanish American war and vietnam.The mainstream American media falls down on the job and does not give us enough information to exercize critical thinking.Maybe if the media were not afraid to speak truth to power Americans would have the tools necessary to make better decisions.Isn't it just like the media to blame their shortcomings on somebody else.This time other than screamng "Remember the Maine "and how quickly you could get a reporter embedded.What useful service did you perform to this goal of critical thinking.I guess they do not have mirrors in newspaper offices.

Posted by: THOMAS BILLIS | February 10, 2007 2:00 AM | Report abuse

Well, the cheap plastic wine glasses are normally made from acrylic, which has a very definite taste. The metal-PET laminate bags used in beverage packaging are a completely different animal. They just don't have much taste to offer.

But, the bags are somewhat gas-permeable, so they're not suitable for years-long cellaring of wines that are expected to have a long lifespan. For that, the glass bottle is pretty much the best option, once you take it out of the barrel. But even there, a screw-top or plastic cork is a better option than the traditional cork cork.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 10, 2007 2:04 AM | Report abuse

THOMAS BILLIS - I'd question your assertion that the "media" are afraid to speak truth to power except that, while I suspect that you're working from faulty premises, your conclusion has merit.

The "mainstream" media do, in fact, give us a hell of a lot of information to work with. Supporting the bases government action, undermining the bases for government action, and everything in between. It's mostly all there for our perusal.

What is also true is that the best-known names at the highest profile news outlets (I mean, of course, Joel Achenbach, Gene Weingarten, and other famous suck-ups) have become lap-dogs so concerned about protecting their "relationships" with their "sources" that they just aren't willing to bite off a few fingers from the hands that feed them.

Posted by: Bob S. | February 10, 2007 2:17 AM | Report abuse

Ha! -- tangent and Cosine! Ha!

Posted by: Tom fan | February 10, 2007 2:31 AM | Report abuse

"Woman Chosen to Lead Harvard --
Collegial Historian to Follow Summers's Stormy Tenure"


Well, it's certainly not without interest, but it's a really big deal primarily within the Harvard community. I mean, c'mon! Women have been running prestigious institutions for a long ol' while now, and in the contest for U.S. president, we got girls & colored folks, and just near 'bout ever'thaing!

Posted by: Bob S. | February 10, 2007 2:55 AM | Report abuse

Here's a thought: Digital Neo-McCarthyism...

Posted by: Bert | February 10, 2007 5:33 AM | Report abuse

Bob S. and Mudge... Is there something in the air? Today is "tile day" for me, too. Grouting, actually, since I installed the tile last weekend. I guess it really is a small world after all.

For anyone else who fancies themselves a weekend tile warrior, some advice: "quick set" mortar really does set quickly. Unless you want a 5 gallon bucket of solid rock, mix no more than you can use in 15 minutes. Don't ask me how I learned this.

I actually have several projects that need to be finished today, most of which involve drywall (hanging it, taping/mudding it, sanding it, mudding it again, sanding it again, mudding it again, sanding it... you get the picture). Still, it's less work than old-school plastering (not that much less, but less). I expect that by lunch time my entire self will resemble the parts of New York State recently whacked by 6 feet of lake effect snow.

On a side note, I took Error's general advice to the Boodle and allowed my doctor to ... um... "inspect" me (I don't want to get into it, but there was/is a reason for this). All I can say is that I must have a very lovely posterior because now the doctor wants *other* doctors to give it a look-see. I feel confused and violated, yet strangely "liberated". I also have an unexplainable urge to read "Cosmopolitan".

Time to put on my lumberjack clothes and overcompensate...

Posted by: martooni | February 10, 2007 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Pat -- so sorry for your family. Imagine the sky report your brother-in-law could make now. When we were little, my sibs and I would occasionally see the cloud formation called crepuscular: light filtered and streaming through huge puffy cumulo-nimbus clouds. "Gates of heaven!' we thought.

I know you have a tender funny bone, so I can requote the line about beloved dogs in our family:

"He brought joy in life and tears when he died; no one could do more."

Perhaps this is a life philosophy in a nutshell.

Posted by: College Parkian | February 10, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse


Harvard (which, btw, is where Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones were roommates--along with John Lithgow) will appoint a female president...

Posted by: TBG | February 10, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Uh oh... hadn't seen Bob S's post about Harvard. Sorry, folks.

Posted by: TBG | February 10, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

martooni-my sympathies, on having all that drywall work to do. I'm sure the posterior thing will be fine.

To all who are doing tile work, bravo. You will love the result.

On the phone this morning directing the husband in the logistical prep phase of next weekend's Chinese New Year party. A good white wine in a box at the top of the list. If you find yourself opening a bottle shortly after purchase, but don't consume it all within a few hours, get the box. California producers are putting better wines in boxes all the time. The father-in-law, retired cattle rancher from Paso Robles, hob nobs with the vineyard owners. I guess he's able to squelch his feelings about the highest purpose of any acreage being in how many cows it will suppport. Anyway, he always serves great wine when we visit and is a big fan of boxes and plastic corks.

Posted by: frostbitten | February 10, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, boodle.

I think the problem with the plasticy taste from wine in bags/bogs is completely customer-induced. If you can taste the plastic, you aren't drinking enough wine fast enough. Also, try hors d'oeuvres with more garlic in them, fishy canapes, etc.

C'mon, people, you have to think outside the box. So to speak.

'Morning, Cassandra.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | February 10, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse


So sorry to hear about your brother-in-law. Must be very hard right now for you and your family. Take care of yourself and know that the boodle loves you.

Posted by: TBG | February 10, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: dbG | February 10, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

A "critical thinking" recipe. And who does that NOT sound like? Well, for one, the guy who is SURE (no uncertainty) the other one is wrong; the one who is stating it (not 'asking the question'); the one who is giving one point of view (not considering other interpretations); the one who is mad we're there (emotional reasoning).

Come on -- these are so general as to make coming to a conclusion impossible. It's a cheap trick to list these and then, as though the result of some deep research, apply them to virtually anyone who disagrees with you on virtually anything (they aren't asking questions, they're sure, they have only one interpretation, ...).

It's a quick column, an easy post to the blog, and it can work for anyone: you sound like you've made a 'deep dive' into 'critical thinking' and it has yielded this bullet list which, with only a a second's reflection, clearly nails the NON-critical thinking of your adversary. Booyah -- I win ANOTHER round!

Thanks -- very deep. And powerful.

Posted by: Carleton Tang | February 16, 2007 2:17 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company