Friday, November 30, 2007

I Just Freed 17 Gigs (Yes, GIGS) on the Laptop

And, I did it in TEN SECONDS! Some of you know that I bought my iPod before I bought the Mac, so somehow in the Mac/iPod integration process, I wound up with two copies of all of my old music on my laptop, which I just figured out today. All of this happened before a friend of mine told me the great secret to operating in a Mac environment - don't overthink, just do.

And I was starting to worry that I'd need to upgrade my hard drive...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hitchens Is At It Again

What? What's that, Christopher? We should ask questions about Mitt Romney's Mormonism? Why? The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints was dogmatically racist until the late seventies?

From Slate:

"Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has had to be asked about his long-ago membership of the Ku Klux Klan (which, I would remind you, is also a Protestant Christian identity organization), and he was only a fiddle-playing member, not a Grand Kleagle or whatever the hell it is. Why should Romney not be made to give an account of himself? A black candidate with ties to Louis Farrakhan could expect questions about his faith in the existence of the mad scientist Yakub, creator of the white race, or in the orbiting mother ship visited by the head of the Nation of Islam. What gives Romney an exemption?

There is also the question—this one more nearly resembles the one that John F. Kennedy agreed to answer so straightforwardly in 1960—of authority. The Mormons claim that their leadership is prophetic and inspired and that its rulings take precedence over any human law. The constitutional implications of this are too obvious to need spelling out, but it would be good to see Romney spell them out all the same."

Capital idea, sir!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Best Political Ad EVER

Once upon a time, I thought Mike Huckabee might have been the best Republican candidate for the nomination. Granted, this is sort of like being the tallest midget, and this is also before he said things regarding the Arab/Israeli conflict like "This conflict isn't new. It has been going on since all the way to the time of Abraham."[1]


"It would be very problematic for Israel to give up the West Bank, from their own standpoint of security. . . [T]here are a lot of options that involve other territory that doesn't have to include the West Bank or the Golan Heights. There is an enormous amount of land in Arab control all over the Middle East."[2]

But this is too funny. I have never laughed during a political ad before, and if you haven't seen it, you are doing yourself a disservice.


[1] Abraham, if he existed, lived somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 - 1,700 BCE. Islam was founded around 610-ish CE. Only off by two and a half millenia.
[2] I don't even know where to start with this ridiculous statement.
[3] Chuck Norris doesn't endorse. He tells America how it's going to be.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Something Awesome Happened Yesterday

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a fairly long break between two of my classes. Long enough that I don't want to stick around the school, but too short to go home. So, I've been going to a cafe on Avigunda de Gaudi (a diagonal street with Sagrada Familia at one end and Hospital de Sant Pau at the other, so it's bookended by Gaudi), having a Coke, and reading some Philosophers Speak for Themselves.

So yesterday, the baristo brought me my Coke and said, "You're always studying."

"Yeah," I said.

He asked, "What are you studying?"


"Oh, are you studying in England?"

"No," I said, "I'm going to study in the United States."

"Ah, I'm sorry, those are quite different," he said.

"Not really. They're very similar."

Except the whole conversation WAS IN SPANISH!!! I had an entire conversation with someone from Spain in Spanish! It only took three months...

Also, for people who read my other blog, I then proceeded to make some interesting connections between Cartesian thought and religious fundamentalism. Look for a post soon!

Monday, November 19, 2007


It has been brought to my attention that the Whither Reason? link in the previous post doesn't go anywhere. It has been repaired, but in case you don't want to scroll down, it's here, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Promised Something New

And here it is. Since I've decided that I'm going back to school, hopefully in the Fall of 2009 (God willing and the crick don't rise), I thought it would be a good idea to start putting some things on paper. That way, I won't go back into school having not written anything of philosophical substance in six years. So...

I have a new philosophy blog, Whither Reason?, and I'd like you to check it out. Philosophy is a dialog, and I can't have a dialog alone.

Here's how it works: I read a book, blog about it, and hopefully get a good back and forth going on the topics I write about. No, you don't need to read along, though you're certainly welcome to. I just need to make sure my writing isn't crap.

I'm taking this really seriously, and didn't want to put WR out there until there were a couple posts and the layout was at least what close to what I wanted. I'm now to that point. So, head over there, poke around, and let me know what you think!

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Never Thought I'd Say This

The University of Missouri now holds its NCAA National Championship destiny in its own hands. #2 Oregon lost last night to Arizona, and Mizzou's schedule looks something like this:

@ Kansas State
vs. #4 Kansas @ Arrowhead Stadium

If the Tigers win out, it's off to the Big XII Championship, likely against #3 Oklahoma (though the opponent doesn't matter).

Right now, the BCS Standings are:

1) LSU
2) Oregon
3) Oklahoma
4) Kansas
5) Missouri
6) West Virginia

So, assume everyone that can win this week does. Oregon drops out of the top five, and OU, KU, and Mizzou move up. Mizzou now has to play Kansas. If they win, and Oklahoma wins, the BCS top three going into the Big XII Championship would be LSU, OU, Mizzou (assuming LSU wins out). IF Mizzou gets to the title game, and IF Mizzou beats Oklahoma, the worst position Missouri would find itself in would be 2nd.

Now let's see if they can do it.

Oh, and most interestingly, with the Oregon loss, FOUR teams hold their destinies in their own hands, fighting for two spots. If a team wins out, it goes to the title game. But (and this is a big but), two of the teams face off in a week, and the winner will most likely face the third team shortly thereafter, since three of the top five are in the Big XII and lead their divisions. Pretty exciting. Kind of sounds like... a playoff. But we all know that playoffs in college football aren't exciting, which is why we have the BCS. Right?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sorry for the Post Lull...

I'm working on something cool. And keep the grad school recommendations coming! They're super helpful.

Uh... And Ayers Rock is in St. Louis, Right?

As a follow up to my earlier post about 60% of Americans thinking that trade is bad for the economy, I have bad news.

The problem isn't just in America. We are a planet of morons.

The Guardian is reporting that one in three Britons believe that Mt. Everest is in Europe.

Yes, that Mount Everest.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I Need Your Help! Seriously.

I've been thinking about this on and off for the past few months, but I'm starting to get my act together - I want to get my PhD in philosophy. I'm looking at schools and admission requirements, and I'll be honest - it's quite intimidating. Some of the admission rates are crazy! Wisconsin only admits about 10% of its applicants. University of Chicago admits about 5%. Other schools don't say, but I'd assume it's about the same.

Here's where I need your help. If you applied to grad school (and not a University of Phoenix or eMBA or something, but a full time, physical presence required grad school), what was your application experience like? What are typical admission rates for your program? I'm starting to freak out a bit, and I'm terrified that I'll apply to a bunch of schools and get rejected by all of them. That would crush me.

Also, if you have any recommendations on where I should look, let me know!

Right now, the list consists of (in no particular order): Loyola Chicago, U of C, UIC, U of I, Mizzou, SLU, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Wash U, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Western Michigan, and Michigan State.

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's Not About Creationism

I ran into an interesting article today on Language Log discussing a rather spurious theory that much of what constitutes English slang is, in fact, descended from Gaelic. As a member of the Irish diaspora, it would be fantastic, if it were true. Unfortunately, the research is bad at best and disingenuous at worst.

However, a quote* from the article got me to thinking about Creationism (or Intelligent Design, or whatever the Religious Right is packaging Biblical Fundamentalism as these days), the theory that claims dinosaurs lived alongside man 3,000 years ago and "the chances are good" they were on Noah's Ark.

Creationists have always maintained that they are relegated to the scientific fringes and are maligned and unfairly attacked by the mainstream, caught up in a conspiracy to prevent them from getting their views accepted by mainstream society and into the classroom (see Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Pennsylvania, etc.).

Are Creationists out of the mainstream? Absolutely. Do they deserve to be? You bet. Consider the quote I mentioned earlier, applied not to bad Gaelic scholarship, but to Intelligent Design:

The Creationist advocate** "paints himself as the maligned scholar, the unappreciated genius, the outsider. He may be all of those things, but he is them by choice: his work cannot withstand scholarly scrutiny so he simply cannot afford to join forces with any larger body of experts who do this sort of thing for a living. His book falls apart on first reading by anyone with some expertise in the field."

* The original quote comprises the third paragraph.

** The Creationist advocate was obviously added by me. The quote in its original context discusses the book How the Irish Invented Slang.

Busy Bee

Sorry for the lack of updating. Things here have gotten a little busy, as I have begun teaching some English classes. My Puritan work ethic was not satisfied with the mere 20 hours a week I work with the Knox Program, so I decided to pick up a few hours of teaching. I had two classes this week, and they went really well. The first class is two 12 year old girls who barely speak any English. That class was pretty rough as it was apparent that they weren't understanding anything I said. However, my other class of 3 10 year old boys was AWESOME! They had a basic level of English, but definitely had a higher level than the girls, so we were able to do more things. We introduced ourselves, played time bingo, made up stories (they wrote about a magical basketball that was at the bottom of the sea), played an alphabet game, and the time just flew by!

So, that's what's been keeping me busy. Not sure what's going on this weekend. There's a chocolate festival here, which sounds cool, but is kind of expensive. I had also thought about maybe going hiking tomorrow, but it's gotten a little chilly here. But, perhaps the best news of the weekend is that we are getting a new couch! It is scheduled to arrive today, and I am VERY excited!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I was reading a Reuters article today about the Iowa Caucuses today when I came across some poll data that was disturbing.

"Nearly 60 percent of Americans believe trade is bad for the economy, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted in September."
-Iowa voters take Democrats to task over jobs (Reuters)

Uh, trade is the economy. That's what capitalism is; trading money, goods, or services for other goods and services.

So you're saying that the economy is bad for the economy?

Either the quote/poll drastically misrepresents Americans' feelings toward trade, or the average American is quite dull. I'm really hoping it's the former.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Americans, Drop What You're Doing!

If you live in America, or have access to American magazines, go out right now and pick up a copy of the 150th Anniversary issue of The Atlantic. There are a series of fifty essays by prominent American thinkers from diverse walks of life (artists, writers, politicians, judges, etc.) discussing the American Idea.

The Atlantic's website doesn't allow non-subscribers to read the articles online, but it does have some interesting (and conflicting) quotes. Among the better ones:

"We don't have to diminish the American idea in order to save it. Indeed, the only way to prevail in the struggle between freedom and fundamentalism is to enrich that idea in the face of threats."
-Senator Joe Biden

"We are not unique; our ideals are not exceptional; and, to everyone's good fortune, our ability to put those ideals into practice, however special it once may have been, has not remained so."
-Justice Stephen Breyer, US Supreme Court

"Ours are loyalties to an ideal, not to a revelation, and this must have been the reason, even if he was not conscious of it, why Lincoln referred to the American 'proposition.'"
-William F. Buckley

"America is now a nation of 300 million souls, wielding more influence than any people in human history—and yet 240 million of these souls apparently believe that Jesus will return someday and orchestrate the end of the world with his magic powers."
-Sam Harris

"The question is: Do we live to serve ourselves alone, or shall our lives bear witness to something larger?"
-T.D. Jakes

"America's uniqueness is based in the Christian consensus of the Founding Fathers, who penned documents guaranteeing religious and personal freedom for all."
-Tim La Haye (in counterpoint to Sam Harris)

"The American idea, as I understand it, is to trust people to know their own minds and to act in their own enlightened self-interest, with a necessary respect for others."
-John Updike

David Foster Wallace's piece has been reproduced in its entirety, and is definitely worth a read, even if you don't pick up a copy of the magazine. You can read it here.

Barça Update: WOOOOO!!! -or- Suck It, Rangers

Rangers prepares their defense before the game

After the ugly slugfest a couple weeks ago in Glasgow, tonight was Barcelona/Rangers: The Rematch, and did Barça ever deliver. Henry (6') and Messi (42') found the back of the net for a 2-0 finish. Yes, Henry's goal touched his hand, but there was a deliberate handball in the box that wasn't called, so it evened out.

Barcelona was out for blood from the start, using a 4-3-3 to great effect. (For non-soccer folks, that's four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. A more-or-less "standard" formation is 4-4-2. The more forwards you have, the more attack minded your team will be, and the more defenders you have, the more defensive minded your team will be.)

Rangers, again playing for the draw, tried a formation that looked more like five defenders, the Maginot line, four midfielders, the Union blockade of the Confederacy, and one lone forward. Funny how that didn't work outside of Scotland.

So, four group games down, two to go. As a bonus, Madrid has stumbled in league play, dropping a match to Valencia (mmm... oranges) while Barça have continued to roll. I haven't seen the games recently, due to a combination of sickness (Sunday's game) and being at the Espanyol game (Thursday's game). From what I understand, Thursday should have been a win, but the tie isn't the end of the world. Barcelona is now only one point behind Madrid in the standings. Speaking of standings...

La Liga (Jornada 11)
1) Real Madrid / 8-2-1 / 25 points / +16
2) Barcelona / 7-1-3 / 24 points / + 15
3) Villareal / 8-3-0 / 24 points / +6
4) Valencia / 7-4-0 / 21 points / -2
5) Atlético Madrid / 6-3-2 / 20 points / +9

Champions League Group E (Matchday 4)
1) Barcelona /3-0-1 / 10 points / +7
2) Rangers / 2-1-1 / 7 points / +2
3) Olympique Lyon / 2-0-0 / 6 points / -2
4) VfB Stuttgart / 0-0-4 / 0 points / -7 -- ELIMINATED --

Pelé Sez: It's time to start thinking about who will advance in the Champions League. There are 32 teams in the Group Stage, and 16 will remain when the Group Stage is done. If you finish in the top two in your group, you move on. If not, you're out of the Champions League. Right now, advancement looks like this:

Through to the Next Round
Manchester United (ENG)
Arsenal* (ENG)

Looking Good
Chelsea (ENG)
Real Madrid (ESP)
AC Milan (ITA)
F.C. Barcelona (ESP)
AS Roma (ITA)
Inter Milan (ITA)
Fenerbahce (TUR)
Sevilla (ESP)

On the Bubble
Marseille (FRA)
Liverpool (ENG)
Rosenborg (NOR)
Shalke 04 (GER)
Lazio (ITA)
Olympiacos (GRE)
Celtic (SCO)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Rangers (SCO)
Olympique Lyon (FRA)

In Trouble
Besiktas (TUR)
Valencia (ESP)
Werder Bremen (GER)
Benfica (POR)
Sporting Lisbon (POR)
Slavia Prague* (CZE)

VfB Stuttgart (GER)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Steaua Bucuresti (HUN)

* Arsenal could theoretically not advance to the knockout stages, but here's what would have to happen. Arsenal would have to lose its next two games. Slavia Prague would have to win its next two games. In addition, Slavia Prague's goal differential (goals scored minus goals allowed) would have to be better than Arsenal's by at least twenty. Keep in mind that when the two teams met in England, Arsenal won 7-0. I say Arsenal is through to the next round, and I'm Pelé, so you should listen to me. Love! Love! Love!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Prophetic Words

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom..."

-Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol

Yup, Nancy Grace had her twins, John and Lucy. Personally, I was pushing for Damien and Lilith.

Evil with a capital... Oh, hell, she's just evil, okay?

Monday, November 5, 2007

iPhone Goes Crazy

One of the best features of the iPhone is that you can look at documents (.doc, .xls, .jpg, etc.) at full size, even though the screen is tiny. You accomplish this by using a pinching motion that, like all other Apple products, is ridiculously simple. How far can you zoom in? Just take a look:

Is he reading National Geographic?

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm Sick

I'm laid up in bed with a cold or flu or something nasty, so you'll have to depend on Susie for a more substantive post today.

In the meantime, here's a clip from Robot Chicken's Star Wars special. I like the space slugs ordering Chinese and Jedi President Bush.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What do I do?

So, I know one of you has asked me this, and more of you might be wondering this, but what exactly do I do here? What is my job like?

Well, my official title is "Assistant to the Director of the Knox College Barcelona Program." I hate to be aloof, but that job title actually is a pretty good description of what I do. I assist the Director of the Program (one Mr. Tim Foster) to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Each day is different, and so far my main tasks have included handling all the visa/residency paperwork, coordinating the students' arrival, planning excursions, finding activities for the students, handling university registration, planning for the big December trip, and planning the Thanksgiving dinner. Some days are insanely busy, while others are more relaxed. I am also available to listen to the students' problems, concerns, experiences, and help them out when I can.

I really like the group of students that is here now. I am sad that a good chunk of them will only be here fall term. However, 19 more students are arriving in January, so that will keep me on my toes.

Where do I work? At the University of Barcelona. The UB has many campuses, but I work at the main one in the city center. It was built in the 1860's, and was declared a historic site in the 1970's. So, yeah, I basically work in a castle. It's pretty amazing, actually. However, the office where I work is fully equiped with the most modern of technologies (ok, not the *most* modern, but we do have computers, internet, fax, etc.), so despite the historical surroundings, we can still get everything done quickly and efficiently.

I know I may not have fully and adaquately described my job, but my job is really a hodgepodge of different tasks. In all, I try to make sure that the program runs as smoothly as possible, and I do everything possible to achieve this goal. That's all.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy this glorious four day weekend. Yep, that's right! Today is a holiday here in Spain (All Saint's Day) and I always have Fridays off, so another nice long weekend here in Spain.
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