Education! Intelligence! LIVE!

In this era of rampant mistakes in spelling and grammar, where the internet is exposing the educational deficit of so many, isn’t it amazing and wonderful that a major television network — ABC — is broadcasting a spelling bee in primetime, for two hours, in high definition, no less?
I’m enjoying it immensely, although I must admit that although I pride myself on being a careful and deliberate speller, these kids are incredible — they spell words that I don’t even know the definition of. If only one of these kids would grow to be… well, president!

At least it wasn’t an education speech

Just saw this on the news…

I hope she doesn’t decide to call herself “The Education Candidate.” And how ironic that in the computer capital of the nation, Silicon Valley, someone was too lazy to use spell check.

But does it do the dishes?

The iPhone will put multitouch technology in the hands of many users in just a few weeks. The Microsoft Surface will… well, I’m not sure what it will do, considering that it will pop up in casinos and hotels sometime in the unknown future.

Last of the Bee Lords

Every day, there is a single honeybee visiting the lavender plants in my backyard. He pokes around among the flowers, taking his sweet time, and I watch him – her – it as it moves from plant to plant. I feel like it is an endangered species, one of a handful of survivors from a mysterious force that has decimated its brothers and sisters; and I feel privileged to see it in my backyard.

I doubt I will feel this way if the wasps start disappearing.

No, not THAT kind of pirate

The next time the motion picture industry starts whining about how piracy is ruining their business and that the loss of sales because of copying is going to cause all the studios to go bankrupt, just pull out this little story and laugh.

The Wheel: My Lost Theory

I’ve finally formulated a theory on what will be revealed at the end of Lost, and I haven’t seen this idea elsewhere so I’ll post it and let the net assimilate it, chew it over, and spit it out.

This curve goes the wrong way

This may be a Memorial Day that George Bush will want to forget. You see, when one takes a day to honor our nation’s war deaths, an accounting usually follows. And the accounting of deaths in Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan are disconcerting and going in the wrong direction.

  • 2003: 251
  • 2004: 947
  • 2005: 1,848
  • 2006: 2,755
  • First 5 months of 2007: 3,832

These numbers, more than anything else, put the lie to the Bush administration’s continual optimism and cheerfulness in the face of a horrifically wrong decision.
A few choice quotes from the president today that rubbed me the wrong way:

“As before in our history, Americans find ourselves under attack and underestimated. Our enemies long for our retreat. They question our moral purpose. They doubt our strength of will.”
“This is our country’s calling. It’s our country’s destiny.”

Charles Nelson Reilly

LOS ANGELES- Charles Nelson Reilly, the Tony Award winner who later became known for his ribald appearances on the “Tonight Show” and various game shows, has died. He was 76.
Reilly died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his partner, Patrick Hughes, told the New York Times.
Reilly began his career in New York City, taking acting classes at a studio with Steve McQueen, Geraldine Page and Hal Holbrook. In 1962, he appeared on Broadway as Bud Frump in the original Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” The role won Reilly a Tony Award.
He was nominated for a Tony again for playing Cornelius in “Hello, Dolly!” In 1997 he received another nomination for directing Julie Harris and Charles Durning in a revival of “The Gin Game.”
After moving to Hollywood in 1960s he appeared as the nervous Claymore Gregg on TV’s “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and as a featured guest on “The Dean Martin Show.”
He gained fame by becoming what he described as a “game show fixture” in the 1970s and 80s. He was a regular on programs like “Match Game” and “Hollywood Squares,” often wearing giant glasses and colorful suits with ascots.
His larger-than-life persona and affinity for double-entendres also landed him on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson more than 95 times.
Reilly ruefully admitted his wild game show appearances adversely affected his acting career. “You can’t do anything else once you do game shows,” he told The Advocate, the national gay magazine, in 2001. “You have no career.”
His final work was an autobiographical one-man show, “Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly,” about his family life growing up in the Bronx. The title grew out of the fact that when he would act out as a child, his mother would often admonish him to “save it for the stage.”
The stage show was made into the 2006 feature film called “The Life of Reilly.”
Reilly’s openly gay television persona was ahead of its time, and sometimes stood in his way. He recalled a network executive telling him “they don’t let queers on television.”
Hughes, his only immediate survivor, said Reilly had been ill for more than a year.
No memorial plans had been announced. [AP]

Here’s what I can say about Charles Nelson Reilly, which I can only hope someone will say about me when I am gone: when I think about him, I smile.

We knew he knew

Many years after it would have done any good, the Washington Post has published an article detailing the intelligence predictions from before the ill-advised war in Iraq:

Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Analysts warned that war in Iraq also could provoke Iran to assert its regional influence and “probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups” in the Muslim world.

The intelligence assessments, made in January 2003 and widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war, said that establishing democracy in Iraq would be “a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge.” The assessments noted that Iraqi political culture was “largely bereft of the social underpinnings” to support democratic development. [The Washington Post]

I’m not going to rehash how brilliantly intelligent I and a lot of others were when we came to the same conclusions before the war. No, instead, I have two questions.

First, with this revelation as well as the news that the White House and Defense Secretary altered, obscured, or ignored intelligence reports that showed no weapons of mass destruction, is the White House now going to stop blaming “faulty” intelligence for its mistakes?

Second, and very disturbing, is this thought: we know that the president was warned, in specific terms, about Osama bin Laden and plots to fly planes into buildings in the months prior to the attack. We know that the intelligence community told him that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. And we know that the administration was told in stark terms what would happen if they invaded Iraq. Bush did nothing to stop the September 11 attacks; he used WMD as a pretext to invade Iraq; he went to war under the banner of a “war on terror” even though he was warned that the result would be an increase in terrorism and a surge of Islamic violence.

So, what is the real reason he made these decisions against all the intelligence and evidence he was shown? What is the real agenda of the Bush White House?

They’re just on vacation

I think I may have solved the mystery of the recent mysterious disappearance of the honey bees: they’re all gathering in the UK for a vacation in Bournemouth.

Swarm of bees grounds UK aircraft

Almost 200 passengers found themselves stranded at Bournemouth Airport for 11 hours after their plane turned back after flying into a swarm of bees.
The Palmair Boeing 737, bound for Faro in Portugal, took off from Bournemouth at 0810 BST on Thursday.
But after flying into the swarm the pilot experienced an engine surge an hour later and returned the aircraft to the UK for checks.
Engineers ruled it was unsafe to fly and another plane took off at 1915 BST.

Ingested bees
A total of 196 passengers were affected including 90 attempting to travel to the Algarve and a further 106 waiting to return to the UK.
The incident happened just two days after a swarm of 20,000 bees descended on Bournemouth Pier.
It is believed the plane’s engines ingested the bees while flying over Bournemouth but this did not cause problems until later into the flight. [BBC]

Of inconsistency in interfaces

Usually I hold up Apple as an example of excellent user-focused design. Their devices and software generally works just as you expect it to, so much so that they don’t even ship a manual with their computers anymore.
But I’ve come across one design decision that is really bugging me.

Dick, Dykes, and Diapers

Mary Cheney gave birth to her first child, and I couldn’t be happier for her — because, of course, I think that it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight, as long as you are a good, loving parent.
Of course, the whole thing is muddy because she is the lesbian daughter of the nation’s foremost conservative, the scary Dick Cheney. One only has to see him bristle and snarl when questioned about this situation to understand how conflicted and uncomfortable it all is for a man who has carefully cultivated the fundamentalist religious right in order to gain power.
While the right wing freaks are out there claiming that homosexuals are bent on destruction and will eat your children and bring hurricanes and earthquakes, the daughter of the man they support had this to say:

“This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child.” But she also went on to declare that “every piece of remotely responsible research” had demonstrated “no difference between children who are raised by same-sex parents and children raised by opposite-sex parents.”

Any moment now the fundies will start screaming about the fact that the child doesn’t have a “father” in residence. Still, she managed to work God in there. I suppose it could have been much worse for the Cheneys — she could have had an abortion!
Good for her. And congratulations, Mary and Heather!
And darn you for putting me in the position of defending and congratulating a Cheney!