Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, October 30, 2006

John Kerry Gets One Right.

Albeit inadvertently.

Not about the educational performance of the troops; he's dead wrong about that. I saw it for myself a few weeks ago we my son graduated from Basic Combat Training. For a bunch of poor, underprivileged, under-educated recruits, their families sure seemed to drive an awful lot of nice cars.

No, the only thing Kerry got right was in his defense of his stupid comment.
This is the classic G.O.P. playbook.

Yep, it is. Usually all a Republican has to do to win an election is to shut up and let the Democrat talk.

Karl Rove thanks you for your support, Sen. Kerry.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Prestige

Where misdirection should be wielded with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel, this movie uses it like a sledgehammer to batter the viewer into numbed submission, which is too bad, because buried beneath the randomly shifting timelines was a pretty cool story.

The story follows Robert Angier ()Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) two young magicians aspiring to become the most celebrated magician of their era. Starting as friends and co-workers, tragedy sets them against each other in a blood feud as each attempts to outdo the other. The problem is that the movie shifts backwards and forwards in time, seemingly at random intervals. I'm guessing that the effect is supposed to be one of revelation as scenes take on a different light as they are explained by later ones, but the problem is that there are no revelations.

Magic relies on mystery, and there are no mysteries here. We know what is coming long before the movie gets there.

I can't say much more about the movie without giving away some spoilers, so I'll put the rest of the review below the fold. I do give away the major plot points, so if you plan on seeing the movie, don't go any further.

Posted by Rich
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Never Mind

In yesterday's podcast, I called on folks to leave Michael J. Fox alone. Some people are criticizing him for going of his meds to dramatize his condition.

Today, Fox claims he wasn't off his meds, that the tremors and slurred speech were a normal occurrence, implying that his medications weren't always effective or reliable.

You can imagine this came as quite a shock to me since just a couple of months ago, I saw him on Inside the Actors Studio, where he gave an extended interview with nary a twitch. In fact, at one point, he halted the interview so he could go of stage and take his meds in order to complete the show with minimal palsy.

Coincidentally, that episode is being rebroadcast on Oct 30th. Check it out for yourself and see if you think Fox was really on his meds or not.

In my book, he's gone from a hero to a zero.

Posted by Rich
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Technorati Issues

I just signed up for techorati and there's a problem. According to them, I haven't updated in 6 months.

How do I fix that?

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Political Ads

OK, due to popular demand, here is the next podcast from Shots Across the Bow. This time, I take on political ads, primarily the Michael J Fox spots and the RNC attack on Harold Ford. The ads can be seen below, if you care for that sort of thing.
Musical Credits:
Intro: Liar by Three Dog Night
Exit: Don't Slander Me by Roky Erickson

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Resolving a Paradox: Part 1 The Separation of Church and Science

The Earth was created in 6 days and is about 10,000 years old.

The Earth formed over millions of years and is about 4.5 billion years old.

One is an article of faith, the other a matter of science, right?

One is true, the other patently false, right?

Well, maybe not. What if I told you that there is a way to use science to show that both statements could be accurate simultaneously? Note carefully that I said could be true, not are true. I can't say for sure if the following series of conjectures is true or not. What I can say is that the second statement does not automatically render the first one false.

It all depends on using the proper framework.

For starters, you have to understand that by design, science does not answer any questions about religion and the existence of God. The idea of supernatural forces/beings/actions is automatically excluded from consideration in the scientific framework. This makes scientists very happy, as they can make and test their mechanistic theories about how the world works without worrying about divinity mucking things up.

But there's a consequence to operating in this framework that many scientists have a tendency to forget. Since they start out by choosing postulates that exclude the idea of God, none of their results can be construed to say anything about God, whether positive or negative.

Yes, you in the back, you have a question?

"But if the equations work without a God, then that means there's no need for a God, so doesn't that prove He doesn't exist?"

A good question, and one I'm glad you asked because it perfectly illustrates the fallacy of trying to disprove the existence o God using science. The short answer is "No, it doesn't." To more fully demonstrate, let's construct a proof. Your argument goes like this:

I can describe this process without resorting to God.
Therefore God does not exist.

It is very clear that the conclusion is not supported by the proposition. In order for the conclusion to be true, you would have to include a first postulate, making the proof look like this:

If God exists, He must be crucial to every process description.
I can describe this process without God.
Therefore God does not exist.

While the proof is logically sound, there is no basis for the first postulate, which makes the proof invalid.

Now, getting back to the subject at hand, the first postulate of science can be stated like this:

All processes in nature can be described without recourse to supernatural actors/forces.

Note that this statement says nothing about whether or not those forces actually exist or not. And because it doesn't, no proof constructed from that first postulate can have anything to say about the existence of those forces.

So, since science by definition cannot say anything about God, then why would I call this essay "The Mathematics of Divinity?"

Because math is not science; math is a descriptive language. It uses abstract symbols manipulated in a rigid, logical fashion, in an attempt to describe the real world. The results are haphazard at best.

Ahh, you in the back again. Math major, I take it?

"Come on, professor! You expect us to believe that math is haphazard? Math is perfectly designed, always logical, always repeatable, and makes perfect sense! How can you call that haphazard?"

Ok, allow me to demonstrate. Come up to the front of the class. On my desk, you'll find 5 pencils. Take 7 of them and bring them here to the podium.

"I can't! If there are only 5, then how can I bring you 7?"

What, you can't bring me -2 pencils?

As I said, haphazard. Following the rigid logical rules of mathematics can easily result in answers that have no real world counterpart. The point I'm trying to make here is that math is only useful when it provides an accurate description of the real world and its processes. It has no intrinsic value of its own.

So, what does all of this have to do with reconciling the biblical age of the earth with the scientific age?


We'll talk about age as a dimension in Part 2.

Posted by Rich
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I Voted

As promised, NO on Amendment 1, and I voted for neither Ford nor Corker. If those two represent the best Tennessee has to offer, we are in truly sad shape.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Blogger Visits the MSM. Part 1: The Fourth Estate Goes Commercial

If there's one thing that the left and right halves of the blogosphere agree on, it's that the mainstream media is biased.

Of course, we don't agree on the direction of the bias, but that's just a minor quibble, right?

Folks on the left say that the media is biased to the right because wealthy corporate types own the media, and we all know that all wealthy corporate types are conservatives, right? Folks on the right say the media is biased to the left because the vast overwhelming majority of editors, publishers, reporters and columnists vote Democrat.

So which side is right? Both? Neither? After spending a day at the Knoxville News Sentinel, I still don't know, although I suspect that the answer is "a little of both." What I did discover was that there are other factors that play a far larger role in determining A) which stories are followed, and B) how they are presented.

Before I get started, I have to thank Michael Silence for getting me in the doors, and Editor Jack McElroy for allowing me complete access to his newsroom. “Go where you want and write whatever you want,” is what he said to me. We’ll see how serious he was about that when I get back from Vegas and send him an expense report.

To begin, we have to understand that a newspaper is a business, and like any other, it must pay the bills and make a profit. Fail in that regard, and it doesn't matter how many Pulitzers you win; nobody can read a paper that goes out of business.

There are many who look at the idea of operating a paper for profit as, well, a conflict of interest, and they have a point. After all, facing the truth is an often unpleasant experience, and how many people will continue to buy a paper that they find unpleasant? The publisher will want to print stories that will appeal to his readers in some fashion or another. A good example of this is the recent story in the KNS about the Farragut Birthday Bacchanalia. Since when is a girl's birthday party news?

Since it becomes one of the most popular pieces the paper has published in recent times. The front desk at the Sentinel has sold more copies of that paper than any other this year. The links on the website to the multimedia portions of the story continue to draw significant traffic. Email to the editor is still flowing in. As online producer Erin Chapin told me, the Jerry Springer Days stories bring the most traffic. Or as Editor Jack McElroy posted on his blog:
News is what people talk about, and people definitely were talking about "My Super Sweet 15." Our Web traffic showed it was the best-read and the most discussed story of the year.

This brings up a very important point; not only do people usually get the government they deserve, they absolutely get the press they deserve. One of the things that online news makes possible is the ability for the consumer to custom tailor the news he reads on a daily basis. He can use any one of a dozen different aggregators to pick and choose which news stories he reads. This sounds great in theory, but there's a drawback. If people only read the news stories that appeal to them, there's a good chance they'll lose track of the big picture, and never know they're missing it. An online newspaper has the ability to marry the depth of coverage from newspapers with the immediacy and multimedia of television, leveraging the strengths of both mediums, but if all Joe Public wants to read is the Sports pages and Peanuts reruns, it all goes to waste.

And there's very little that can be done about it. As Jigsha Desai, online editor said, the consumer gets to make the final choice. I also talked with Deputy Managing Editor Tom Chester, (Think Lou Grant with a pony tail and a toothache) who had a more optimistic view. He pointed out that it wasn't just the salacious stories that got big traffic. There were a couple of stories with national impact that pulled very strong online numbers, including the Roane County prison break that killed Cotton Morgan. According to Chester, the KNS updated frequently and rapidly, and became the best source for those following the story nationally.

It becomes a balancing act of sorts; you have to maintain your readership so they’ll be there when the news breaks.

Making it even tougher is the fact that 75% of the paper's revenue comes from advertisers. The biggest single impact of this fact is space. That amount of advertising takes up a ton of space that would otherwise go to news. On the day I was there, Say Uncle criticized the KNS for not covering a story he was pushing concerning Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. Say Uncle said:
I handed the local newspaper the story on a silver platter. I posted the story on their blog. I know that some local TeeVee folks read that blog and my blog. But, not a peep any where in the local press. Your average Knoxvillian (who’d likely not be happy about this) doesn’t know it happened.

But the local newspaper has some hard-hitting stories on beefcake, planting trees, and chainsaw sculpting.

On the day in question, both the A and B sections of the paper were running long, and stories were getting bumped and trimmed to fit. I sat in on the final budget meeting of the day, and while Uncle's story never came up, it was clear that there simply wasn't room for another story. Add that to the balancing issues I discussed earlier, and you can understand more about how the story about Knoxville's top bachelor made the cut.

It's not a perfect business; there's always going to be compromise.

But here's the thing that Uncle is forgetting; the KNS did publish a story about it. They published Uncle's story via Michael's blog. And assuming that the blogs are archived just like the rest of the online content, any searches on Haslam and Bloomberg will pull up Uncle's post. Think about that for a second. A private citizen, writing anonymously, can publish a hard news story on a MSM website.

I think that's fairly impressive myself.

So here's the bottom line of this first look at the KNS. Like so much else in the real world, newspapering is all about compromise. You have competing demands for space, plus you have to report the hard news while keeping your increasingly distracted readerships full attention.

And you have to make a few bucks at the same time.

I know there are a lot of folks who hate the idea of a for profit media, and as we've examined, there are drawbacks to the corporate model. But it seems to me that we as consumers are the most glaring drawback. We say we want hard news but we follow stories about Britney Spears and her baby much more avidly. Steve Irwin's death by stingray drew significantly more attention than North Korea's detonation of a nuclear weapon. We get the media we pay for folks, and right now, we're putting all our money into gossip and hype.

And what is the alternative to a corporate media? One that's government sponsored, like the BBC in England? Talk about a conflict of interest!

This may be the dynamic that is driving the blogosphere. Tired of the filler and fluff, frustrated by the lack of space for in-depth coverage, we go out and do the job for ourselves. We aren't limited by column inches, only by bandwidth and server space, and that gives us a freedom most reporters can only envy. But as more content goes online, and more newspapers break the old school mindset, I think we'll see newspapers come to resemble blogs more.

I talked for quite a while with Jack Lail, Managing Editor/Multimedia about how online newspapers would compete with free news aggregators already out there. His response was that people came to the internet looking for original content, and somebody had to be able to provide it. And as Tom Chester mentioned, one of the things that drew international attention to some of their stories was the frequent updates that kept the story fresh and current.

Original content, frequently updated?

That's blogging, folks.

Part 2 will cover the online growth of the KNS in more detail.
Part 3 will cover how a story is framed and presented, using two different stories.
Part 4 will cover election night at a major newspaper.
Part 5 will cover the Sports operations, which are almost completely separate from the rest of the paper, from the standpoint of covering the Vol's bowl game. (In my dreams!)
Part 6 (If they let me back into the building) will cover the physical aspects of the paper's production.
Part 7 will cover any questions you, my loyal readers will want to ask that I've forgotten to ask.

Posted by Rich
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Army Manning: An Observation

We all know the statistics and the scares: The left fringe constantly sounds the draft drumbeat, while the Pentagon insists that there will be no such thing, and the recruitment/retention goals are being met or exceeded.

So which side is telling the truth? Durned if I know, but I do have some anecdotal observations to add to the discussion.

When Adam got to Basic at Fort Leonard Wood, his start date was backed up by about 3 weeks because the facilities were overloaded. There were more recruits than the base was prepared to handle.

When he left basic for AIT at Fort Sill, his training start date has once again ben rolled back due to the high numbers of soldiers in the training pipeline. According to him, there are facilities for training about 250 soldiers per class at any give time. Right now, there are almost 500 soldiers in the class.

What does this mean? Let's put it this way; do you need a draft when you have morevolunteers than you can train?

Posted by Rich
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The Shots Across the Bow 2006 Voters Guide

Early voting is underway and to help you all out in deciding who to vote for, I've put together the Shots Across the Bow Voter's Guide. Here in one place I address all the major issues, showing you the differences between the parties so you can make an informed choice when you get into the booth. Sure, the News Sentinel has their version, but who do want to trust, a major conglomerate or a pajama clad blogger?

Never mind; don't answer that.

Without further ado, the voting guide.

Oops, I forgot to mention that this is my first podcast. Very low tech for now; I don't even have any bumper music. You'll just have to settle for me! Let me know what you think!

UPDATE: While it plays at a reasonable volume on my laptop, I've gotten a couple of reports that it's too quiet, so I replaced the original file with one that should be louder.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Multicultural Myopia.

Let me get this straight:

If a Christian landlord refuses to rent to a gay couple based on his religious beliefs, we should condemn him as a homophobic bigot.

If a Muslim cab driver refuses to carry a passenger because that passenger is carrying alcohol, or is transgendered, we should respect his religion and set up an entirely separate system for him, in order to show respect for his religion.

I don't think so.

Posted by Rich
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Private Adam Michael Privett; An American Soldier

The Soldier's Creed:
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States and
live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

Posted by Rich
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Protesting Too Much

Via Michael Silence, I see that an enterprising fellow is currently constructing a mockumentary about the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, whose blogroll you'll find to the right of this page.

In what can only be considered accidental self-parody, creator Paul H. Henry and his friends are devoting a tremendous amount of time and effort to creating a series of chapters stretching out over 5 weeks, all designed to show us warbloggers how irrelevant we are.

If we're provoking that type of response, just how irrelevant can we be?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Light Blogging for the remainder of the week

My oldest son graduates from boot camp and I'm driving to Missouri on Wednesday and won't be abck until late Friday.

No wild parties while I'm gone, and clean up the mess before I get back!

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Vols ranked 8th in AP, 9th in Coaches Polls

Is Tennessee really that good?

I'm saying yes, but it has less to do with the Georgia game and more to do with the season so far. Georgia's numbers, particularly on defense, were inflated by a soft schedule, (opponents went a combined 11-18) and the offense was revealed as suspect by their struggles against Ole Miss and winless Colorado.

But let's look at the rest of Tennessee's schedule to date.

  • Tennessee has faced one of the tougher schedules in college football. Our opponents have a combined record of 20-12
  • Cal is on a 5 game winning streak since losing to the Vols, scoring 40+ points per game and reclaiming a top 10 ranking. They just beat a highly ranked Oregon team soundly.
  • Air Force is undefeated in conference play
  • The Gators are rolling towards an undefeated season. And no, Georgia has no chance agains the Gators.
  • The Vols are 2-1 against teams ranked in the top 10 when we played them, and lost by 1 point to Florida.

So yes, the Vols are a top 10 team. You could argue that there are a couple of teams ranked behind them that could beat them, but there are also a couple of teams ranked ahead of them that they could handle fairly easily. As the season progresses, we'll see how it all shakes out.

Posted by Rich
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