July 05, 2004

Mystery? What Mystery?

It would seem that there is some controversy surrounding what we all know to be the Book of the Greater Magic. Paul Hsieh reveals that apparently neither he nor the cryptography experts at the Scientific American have been reading Stillness, especially some of the later chapters. From the SA article:

Voynich asked the leading cryptographers of his day to decode the odd script, which did not match that of any known language. But despite 90 years of effort by some of the world's best code breakers, no one has been able to decipher Voynichese, as the script has become known. The nature and origin of the manuscript remain a mystery. The failure of the code-breaking attempts has raised the suspicion that there may not be any cipher to crack. Voynichese may contain no message at all, and the manuscript may simply be an elaborate hoax.

I note with some interest that parallel universe hypothesis has not been specifically ruled out.

Posted by Phil at 11:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

Countries I've Visited

Here I thought I was really worldly, but it turns out that the 14 counties I've been to in my life make up only 14% of the countries in the world. Time to dust off the old passport, I reckon.

create your own visited country map or write about it on the open travel guide

Hat tip: Bigwig

Posted by Phil at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2004

"Intellectual" Property

Here are a couple of headlines that I found dangerously close to each other:

Google Slaps Booble

Search engine giant Google has demanded that newly launched adult search site Booble take down its Web site, a Booble spokesman said Thursday.

Lindows Lose To Windows In Dutch Courts

Companies that resell Lindows, the Linux operating system, in the Netherlands have eight days to stop, since Windows successfully won a ruling in an Amsterdam court. The alternative system is said to be "profiting from the success of Windows".

It would be easy to dismiss one of these cases as trivial, but they both raise serious issues. Google claims that "Booble" is cashing in on their name and look and feel in order to peddle smut. Booble claims that their site is a parody. Google claims that they are a competitor, another search engine. So the questions is: can company A go into the same business as company B while parodying the look and feel of company A?

My gut answer is "why not?" Nobody would ever confuse Google with Booble. So I don't see how Google is losing anything in the deal. If it's unfair that Booble is cashing in on a market that Google created while using a similar name, then why can't Yahoo! sue Google on the same grounds?

I'm not so sure about Windows and Lindows. Maybe in Europe, there really is some chance that the two could be confused. It's also unclear from the article how much Lindows operates like Windows, or whether the Dutch have any other option for getting Linux.

If I were a suspicious person, I would wonder whether Microsoft is less concerned about protecting their intellectual assets, and more concerned about finding novel ways to destroy competitors without having to beat them in the marketplace.

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January 29, 2004

Badges of Honor

A while back, a commenter tried to put me in my place by accusing me of being “sophomoric.” Unfortunately (for her), because of a certain sentimental association I have with the word, I can never be insulted via that particular term. On the contrary, I wear it as a badge of honor.

Now Glenn Reynolds reports that Mark Modzelewski of the Nano Business Alliance has had it with Glenn and with all of us “bloggers, Drexlerians, pseudo-pundits, panderers and other denizens of their mom’s basements.”

Well sticks and stones, Mr. Modzelewski.

Actually, that’s not such a bad list. Let’s examine the items one by one:



Yep, I’m one. I spend (sometimes) hours a day blogging. Quite proud of it, to tell you the truth. So thanks for noticing.



Okay, you got me there. I’m a Drexlerian. I’m also a Copernican,* if you get my drift.



Remember George Carlin (back when he was funny) and the “semi-boneless” ham?

“Is there a bone? There is a bone. And it’s a bone. It ain’t no semi-bone.”

Can you really have a pseudo-pundit? Isn’t some notion of “pseudo” or “quasi” built into the term? (Clearly, I’m not thinking of pundits of the Vodka, Daily, or Insta variety.) Or maybe Modzelewski is trying to describe a specialty. Whereas FuturePundit shares information and views on the future, a pseudo-pundit would share views and information that are highly specious, if not totally bogus.

I don’t know. That doesn’t sound too much like a blogger. It sounds more like a…hmmm…that’s a tough one. Oh, wait. I know.

It sounds like a “political damage control specialist.”



Yes, I suppose I am a ponderer. I do like to ponder the unknown. That’s what being a Speculist is all about, really, pondering what might be, what might not be — how’s that?

Oh, pander.

I never pander, except maybe to gorgeous women or people who I think might give me money. (I did win a suck-up prize once, though.)


Denizens of Their Mom’s Basements

Look, I may live here, but I’m hardly a denizen. (Also, I think in fairness I should point out that it’s as much Dad’s basement as it is Mom’s.)

Modzelewski seems to be implying that people like us lack social development. But the truth is, I have the gang over to play Dungeons and Dragons every Saturday afternoon. And it’s not like I never go out. Heck, I went to see Return of the King four times last week.

It’s a great feeling: getting up every morning, sitting down at the computer still wearing my bathrobe, my Vulcan ears freshly affixed. But I do sometimes have a vague sense of discontent. If only I could be more…hip. More suave.

More clever.

Better looking.

Damn. If only I could be more like that Modzelewski guy.


* That is, a follower of Nicolaus Copernicus: Polish astronomer, 1473-1543. He was a proponent of a lot of crazy ideas, most notably the notion that the Earth orbits the Sun. Sadly, history provides scant mention of how much time he spent in his mom’s basement.

Posted by Phil at 08:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

Life, Summarized

Since I'm dealing with the big issues today, I didn't want my treatise on how death sucks to be the last word. Here, then, are some words, from my favorite goddess, that sum up an awful lot of what life's about:

A wonderful teacher once told me "only rocks and love last forever. Choose to be one of them." I've been a rock and done little. Now it's time to be love - or at least filled with love - and do something.

Life's not about fame or fortune. It's about leaving enough of an impression on others that they think of you for awhile. Or, more importantly, that you think of others for awhile.

Read the whole story. Godspeed, Joanie.

Posted by Phil at 12:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 28, 2003

Risible Clerics

Apparently both Glenn Reynolds and Rod Dreher of the National Review Online found Bishop John Chane's Christmas message at the National Cathedral to be laughably syncretic, embracing as it does a view of Christianity that might allow some validity to other religious traditions (specifically Islam.) The offensive, "risible" quote:

And what was God thinking... when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the Law to Moses? And what was God thinking... when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the sacred Quran to the prophet Muhammad? And what was God thinking... when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

In response, Dreher quips:

It will come as news to many Christians that an Anglican bishop believes that the Islamic revelation was true, not false, as Christianity teaches implicitly. Nevertheless, a Michigan lawyer friend suggests that Bp. Chane has opened up a new and exciting area for exploring ecumenism/syncretism. Now, the Episcopalians of Washington can have a gay wedding in the church, and push a wall over on the two grooms at the reception.

Dreher might be astonished to discover that there are quite a few Anglicans who believe that Islam is a true revelation precisely to the extent that it does not contradict the Christian revelation. Or at least that it could be true to that extent. Some might say that it's a true revelation that was distorted along the way, or even a false one that took on some aspect of truth as it progressed. As that risible, ultra-liberal syncretist C. S. Lewis put it:

I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling you one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point of all the religions in the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.

Chane is free to believe that Islam has some truth in it, and even that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad, without compromising his faith to syncretism or other heresy. This doesn't mean that he has to embrace the entire faith of Islam from whole cloth. And as for the apparent contradiction between an Episcopal Church which may soon formally recognize gay unions and a religion that teaches that the death penalty should be applied to homosexuals--well, Chane faces that contradiction whether Islam is added to the mix or not. The Old Testament is pretty straightforward on this:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.
Leviticus 18:22-23

If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their blood guiltiness is upon them.
Leviticus 20:13

And, no, I'm not suggesting any moral equivalency between modern Christianity and Judaism (which have decided to abandon or "re-interpret" such teachings) and present-day Islam, which all too frequently continues to enforce them. I'm merely pointing out that if Chane does not find such teachings compelling in his own holy book, he's not likely to have much use for them from somebody else's. Dreher, on the other hand--with his all-or-nothing approach to religion--presumably would favor continuing to enforce the ancient Levitical code.

Here's more from Chane's risible sermon.

Were these just random acts of association and coincidence or was the Angel Gabriel who appears as the named messenger of God in the Jewish Old Testament, the Christian New Testament Gospels, and the Quran of Islam, really the same miraculous messenger of God who proclaimed to a then emerging religious, global community and to us this morning that we are ALL children of the living God? And as such we are called to acknowledge that as Christians, Jews and Muslims we share a common God and the same divine messenger. And that as children of the same God, we are now called to cooperatively work together to make the world a haven for harmony, peace, equality and justice for the greatest and least among us.

May we be lifted up as if on the outstretched wings of a graceful, soaring eagle and begin our journey anew in search of religious harmony, and a new global peace... a peace that passes all understanding. And may this day and the many that follow be days filled with the memory of this Christmas... a Christmas where the miracle of God's love was reborn into the world, became flesh, and dwelt among us. Amen

Frankly, I find this message to be pretty short on politics on reasonably long on the whole "Peace on Earth, good will to men" thing. Chane doesn't specifically condemn the war; he just points out that he thinks war is a sin. He doesn't clamor for justice for the Palestinians or engage in "national repentance." He just comes out in favor of people getting along with each other in God's name.

And on Christmas Day. The nerve.

Posted by Phil at 01:51 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 25, 2003

New Computer

Don't mind me. Just trying out the new Toshiba laptop the SpecuWife gave me for Christmas. Nothing more to see here.

Move along, now.

Posted by Phil at 03:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

Look What the Cat Dragged In

It looks like Charles Murtaugh finally remembered the URL to his Blogspot account and has started posting again. Welcome back, Charlie for however brief a time you remain.

He's got some good stuff on there, so be sure and stop by. And thanks to this, I no longer have to feel bad about calling him a "buzzkill." I only recommend you read far enough to glean the epithet. The rest of that particular entry is a lot of deluded buzzkill nonsense.

So, yeah, he's definitely back!

Posted by Phil at 08:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Well, If We're Going to Go All Shakespearean

I'm not sure that I would say that it was "much ado about nothing." I think all that sound and fury on yesterday's Hugh Hewitt show signified something, I'm just not sure what. As I pointed out in my e-mail to Glenn, there appears to be a good deal of personal animosity between these two. It would be helpful to know what the level of acrimony was between Gaffney and Norquist before the charges surfaced. When they started arguing over rent payments and the use of conference rooms in the middle of a debate that goes to the heart of national security, I had to take a step back. Maybe it would be helpful if the person raising these issues wasn't someone who has essentially shared an office with Norquist all this time.

There's no question that Gaffney raises a number of questions that need to be answered, and describes some connections which, if accurate, are more than just a little disturbing. But any Oliver Stone or Art Bell fan can tell you that connect-the-dots is the fun and easy way to find a major conspiracy where there was none before. Gaffney is almost certainly not the racist that Norquist makes him out to be, but he does little to help his credibility when he has to backpedal after alleging that a muslim White House aid played a role in securing a meeting for Wahhabist leaders (as NRO reported earlier this year.) For his part, Norquist would do well to stop denying any connections to "bad people" and saying that Gaffney can't name any specific "bad things" that he has done.

By the way, can't we expect a little more from the vocabulary of a major Beltway player pulling down the kind of bucks that Norquist makes? It's a quibble, but come on. "Bad people?" He sounds more like Grover from Sesame street than one of the nation's top conservative voices.

Norquist would do well to follow Hewitt's advice :

I have known Grover for more than 25 years, and recently shared a panel with him at our college reunion this past summer. Grover needs to respond in detail to Gaffney's charges, as soon as possible, and in an easily distributed electronic form.

Yesterday's WWF-worthy radio broadcast won't cut it. Norquist needs to respond to these charges one by one.

Posted by Phil at 08:54 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack