Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cool people with the same birthday as me

Today is my birthday.

Also born on January 31:
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu, 1543, the first Tokugawa shogun
  • Franz Schubert, 1797, Austrian composer
  • Zane Grey, 1872, American writer
  • Jackie Robinson, 1919, American baseball player
  • Norman Mailer, 1923, American writer
  • Philip Glass, 1937, American composer, Philip Glass, 1937, American composer
  • Connie Booth, 1944, American writer/actor
  • Nolan Ryan, 1947, American baseball player
  • John Lydon ("Johnny Rotten"), 1956, English singer/legend
  • Justin Timberlake, 1981
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The mystery plant

This plant is growing in the backyard of my new house.

I don't know what it is. I don't think I've ever seen one before. It's deciduous and kind of viney, with all these puffy, cottony things on it.

If it was up to me, I'd probably call it a "sage vine," because when there's a light breeze, the white puffballs all bob up and down like a conclave of elderly bearded men nodding wisely.

Or maybe I'd call it a "Shih Tzu vine," because it kind of reminds me of those little dogs.

But those aren't it's real name. Anybody know what it is?

I really want to know.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

A boxful of failure

55 books, or thereabouts
Moving to a new home creates many opportunities. Today, 10 years after I abandoned my attempt at getting a PhD, I finally got rid of most of my political science books.

I'm not sure why I kept them so long. Of course, as any book lover -- not just any reader, but a Book Lover -- will tell you, one doesn't just get rid of books. One keeps them and displays them as a sort of visual, decorative record of what one is or has been interested in -- of who one is, in a way.

But the thing about these books is, I never loved them. In fact, I never even truly read most of them. In grad school -- in the social sciences, anyway -- on the way to your comprehensive exams, you don't actually read books, you process them to extract information. And because you have so many books and articles to read, you need to process them as quickly as possible, no matter how well or badly written, how interesting or dull they may be. You must know what's in them.

So you develop shortcuts. Maybe you read the first and last chapter, and the first and last paragraphs of each of the other chapters, and glean the main ideas of the book, whatever it is the author is trying to argue, that way. (And you do the same with articles: you read the abstract, the introduction, and the conclusion.) If the work will have direct bearing on your own research, of course, you delve in more deeply. And once in a blue moon, maybe, you find a book that you actually enjoy reading, and you read the whole thing. And then you feel guilty for having spent so much time on one book.

So these books weren't books that I loved in any sense. They had been tools for information gathering, not objects of intellectual or emotional desire.

Still, the 65 or so I owned out of the hundreds of books that I "read" during grad school once held great symbolic meaning for me (as did the hundreds of articles that I copied and filed away). Ten years ago, I would not have dreamed of getting rid of them. Five years ago, it would have been a struggle.

Finally, some empty space
But today, well, today what I felt was mainly a little bit surprised at how little it meant to me to box up those books and drop them off at the public library's donation bin. I titled this post "A boxful of failure," because that's what that box represents: my biggest career-type failure. But I'm over it. I'm not failing anymore; I'm having a little bit of success in my own way. So I feel glad to have gotten rid of the books, but not in some big "Finally I've put this behind me" way. I feel glad because now I have room for a lot more books in my bookcases. I switched to reading library books a few years ago because I literally had no more room for books in the tiny house we were renting.

Not that that's a concern anymore, actually. In our new place, I could easily triple my existing bookshelf space without any problem. And the advent of ebooks brings up the question of buying physical books at all. Still, it feels good to know that I can buy about 55 more books before I even have to think about new shelving.

I think I'll hit the used bookstore for some genre fiction. Revisiting Asimov's Foundation series sounds good right about now.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (1/18/2012)

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Return of the attack of the killer porns!

The LDS (Mormon) church's attitude towards pornography worked well enough before the internet. Pornography was a Very Big Deal. It was Evil. It was also kind of rare and exotic. It took a certain amount of effort, and the risk of public exposure, to get it. You had to go somewhere and find it, and maybe someone you knew from church would see you buy that magazine or come out of that forbidden store. So porn was easy to avoid. It was easy for church members to feel set apart from "the filthy things of the world."

If Mormons did indulge, then the furtiveness, guilt, and shame that the church teaches would usually make them quickly throw away the porn. They'd feel sad and pray a lot, but since getting more porn required an effort, it was easy enough not to. "Repentance" was simple and easy.

But now porn is always available. If you have internet — if you live an ordinary life, in other words — porn is never more than a few seconds away. You can't throw your porn away anymore. There's always more. And, unless there's someone monitoring your computer use, there's little worry of getting caught. Those are important changes.

Because the furtiveness, guilt, and shame that the church teaches obviously prevents Mormons from casually enjoying porn, but it also prevents them from casually not enjoying it.

By that I mean that it's hard for Mormons to simply indulge once in awhile and feel a little guilty but not really worry about it. They've been taught that porn is a Very Big Deal and its Evil. So not only can they not think, "That was fun" and go on their way, they can't simply think "Oops!" and go on their way either.

Now they're faced with this Very Big Evil Deal, but they can't get away from it. Porn is always there waiting for them. And there's a whole culture of "porn addiction" surrounding them. There's no one there to tell them that it's actually pretty normal behavior, that pretty much everybody does it, and few people have a problem with it, so don't worry if you do it once in awhile. Everybody acts like it's a Horrible Sin and a Danger rather than a mild self-indulgence at worst, and no one believes that more than the poor wankers themselves.

And that's where some of them fall into a sort of porn death spiral. They feel guilty and ashamed, and what makes them feel a little better? Porn. But that makes them feel guilty and ashamed again. So they need more porn. More guilt and shame. More porn. A vicious circle results, and something very like addiction does occur.

And this is going to continue until the church finally comes to its senses and lightens up. I think the church's treatment of porn will eventually, after many years and a lot of suffering, come to resemble its treatment of youthful masturbation. It has to go from its current 1950s-Mark-E-Peterson-tie-your-hand-to-the-bedpost attitude to something more realistic. It has to treat porn the way it treats youthful masturbation: the church won't come out and say "Everybody does it, so its no big deal." But everybody does do it. So it's no big deal. That's how every sensible bishop treats it now. (I realize that there are probably plenty of not-sensible bishops out there, but the mainstream attitude now is that it's just not that big a deal.) The church has to realize that porn is no big deal either. Until it does, it's going to go on creating "porn addicts."

See also:
Attack of the killer porns!
Discussing potato chips with your son-in-law

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (1/8/2012)

An innocent man who was detained (and tortured, of course) at Guantánamo Bay for seven and a half years.

Another innocent man who was detained (and tortured, of course) at Guantánamo Bay for five years.

The evil of indefinite detention.

Why Americans don't care about civilians killed in its wars.

The myth of Japan's failure.

Trauma from leaving religion.

Salman Rushdie on his friend and defender Christopher Hitchens.

Yoga can be bad for you.

Oregon's football uniforms.

Cosplay in 1980.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Posts I didn't write in 2011

I actually start a lot of posts that I don't finish for one reason or another. Many of them I integrate with other, related, posts, but some I don't finish at all. These are some of their titles. If any of them sound interesting, maybe I'll finish them if you ask me nicely. ;)

  • Conversion and deconversion, part 1: conversion.
  • Conversion and deconversion, part 2: deconversion.
  • When Phoebe Cates was the sum of all that is desirable.
  • Religion and professional wrestling.
  • Connections, or, how it feels to be me.
  • Book review: The Girl Who Played with Fire.
  • I used to worry that too much critical thinking was bad for my kids.
  • How to fix America.
  • I really wanted to still like Joseph Smith.
  • If you have a racist friend...
  • The cruelty of Mormon monogamy.
  • Six years ago today, I realized that America is doomed.
  • What it was like to know God.
  • Book review: The Lew Archer mysteries.
  • My God, drunk or sober.
  • Return of the attack of the killer porns.
  • Book review: Red Sky at Morning.
  • "Why is that policeman so mean?"

Any of those sound like they're worth finishing?

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (1/5/2012) possibly NSFW/C/P

(This post includes an image that may not be safe for work/children/prudes.)

Fourteen-year-old American citizen deported to Colombia.

"America’s Foreign Policy Community is now dropping the pro-freedom charade and talking openly (albeit euphemistically) about the need to oppose Arab democracy."

"[Ron] Paul is making one contribution to the foreign policy debate that could have enduring value. ...Paul routinely performs a simple thought experiment: He tries to imagine how the world looks to people other than Americans."

How psychopaths took over Wall Street.

Marvel lawyers argue IRL that mutants aren't human.

PayPal orders buyer to destroy vintage violin in order to receive a refund.

A heartwarming story of brotherly love.

The Banished Word list (does anyone still say "Thanks in advance"?)

What would you do with 250 copies of the Book of Mormon?

Question of the day: Is it objectification or is it art? Your answer will help me decide whether to buy this poster for my new house.)

Pink Floyd's "Back Catalogue"

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Thursday haiku: 21st century man

Road rage seething, I
don't shoot the motherfucker,
I write poetry.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The best of kuri 2011

My favorite posts from 2011 include:

In which I discover infinite regress in a cake,

Discussing potato chips with your son-in-law,

Understanding Biblical parables: The Wheat and the Tares,

I, Nephi, zombie hunter,

Frodo Son of Drogo,


My greatest moment in sports.

On my blog during 2011, I also:

Explained why people can't help laughing when a Mormon says, "My underwear is sacred!"

Wrote some haiku,

Proposed a more reasonable approach to pornography for the Mormon Church,

Continued the Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, during which Bones, Kirk and Spock encountered Tony the Tiger and Tweety Bird,

Helped readers understand some Biblical parables,

Was comforted by Twitter after the Japanese earthquake,

Discussed some things that I liked about Mormon theology,

Considered what makes a person or a religion "decent,"

Was sexually tense,

Mourned an irrevocably damaged relationship,

Presented some favorite Bible quotes,


Pondered the mystery of... The White Tiger.

How was your year?

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Books I read during 2011

These are the 85 books I read during 2011.

**** Highly recommended
*** Recommended
** Meh
* Don't bother

85. Graceling, Kristin Cashore ****

84. Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order), Aaron Allston **

83. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker ****

82. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick ****

81. The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

80. The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life among Them, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

79. The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear The Hunters, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

78. The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

77. The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

76. The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

75. The Walking Dead, Vol. 7: The Calm Before, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

74. The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

73. The Walking Dead, Vol. 5: The Best Defense, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

72. The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories, Rudyard Kipling ***

71. Bossypants, Tina Fey ***

70. The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart's Desire, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

69. The Walking Dead, Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

68. The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

67. The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye, Robert Kirkman, et al. ****

66. The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle ****

65. Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet, John Bradshaw ****

64. Life Itself: A Memoir, Roger Ebert ****

63. 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports, Kostya Kennedy **

62. Contagious, Scott Sigler ****

61. Infected, Scott Sigler ****

60. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand ****

59. The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman ****

58. The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman ****

57. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman ****

56. Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody ****

55. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins ***

54. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, Robert E. Howard ***

53. Slugging It Out in Japan: An American Major Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield, Warren Cromartie with Robert Whiting ***

52. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens ****

51. A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin ****

50. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins ***

49. A Feast for Crows, George R. R. Martin ***

48. The Samurai Way of Baseball: The Impact of Ichiro and the New Wave from Japan, Robert Whiting ***

47. A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin ****

46. The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America, Hannah Nordhaus ***

45. The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear, Seth Mnookin ***

44. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan ****

43. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald, et al. ***

42. SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin ***

41. A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, Ernest Hemingway ****

40. The Wolfling, Sterling North ****

39. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins ***

38. The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly ***

37. Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, Marcus Luttrell ***

36. A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin ****

35. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin ****

34. Life, Keith Richards ****

33. The Help, Kathryn Stockett ****

32. An Exclusive Love, Johanna Adorján ****

31. Comeback, Richard Stark ****

30. Firebreak, Richard Stark ****

29. Lemons Never Lie, Richard Stark ***

28. All Things Wise and Wonderful, James Herriot ***

27. God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, Adam Nicolson ***

26. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson ****

25. The Science of Battlestar Galactica, Patrick Di Justo and Kevin Grazier ***

24. The Memory Chalet, Tony Judt, ****

23. Flashfire, Richard Stark ****

22. Backflash, Richard Stark ***

21. True Grit, Charles Portis ****

20. The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean ****

19. Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, Alexandra Horowitz ***

18. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas ****

17. The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, Sheril Kirshenbaum ***

16. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1, Mark Twain ****

15. My Life As a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft, Bonnie Nardi **

14. Joan Jett, Todd Oldham *** (review)

13. Ivanhoe, Walter Scott ****

12. Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear, Jim Cole with Tim Vandehey **

11. Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart ****

10. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande ***

9. The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, Thomas Larson ***

8. Moon Knight, Vol. 1: The Bottom, Charlie Huston ***

7. The Elephant to Hollywood, Michael Caine ***

6. Sleepless, Charlie Huston ***

5. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann ****

4. My Dog Tulip, J. R. Ackerley ****

3. Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, Chelsea Handler ***

2. The Natural History of Unicorns, Chris Lavers ***

1. Children of Dune, Frank Herbert ****

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (1/1/2012)

This is kind of eerie: "Above all, [Romney] looked like a President. Handsome, silver-haired, robust, masculine, smiling or stern, he seemed cast for the part by Hollywood's Central Casting. Correspondents who liked him called him 'Mr. Straight Arrow;' those whose flesh crawled at his pieties called him 'Mr. Square,' or worse... He would make a forthright statement one day, then, like a man making up his mind in public, contradict it or modify it on another." -- That's a description of George Romney, not Mitt, from 1969.

Alleged Yeti's finger undergoes DNA analysis.

Why there are fewer tornadoes on weekends.

Ebert ponders his mortality.

I don't like this fad: Has pubic hair in America gone extinct?

The Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon as movies and fan fiction.

There's nothing on the internet that jerks won't spoil.

You can get a smart-phone controlled pilotless drone for under $300.

What Cee Lo should have sung.

I think there are people who would actually text back in that situation.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, users of the Gregorian calendar!

Happy 11th day after winter solstice, everyone else!

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