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Saturday, May 24, 2008  

Concerned Pastor Remix

This is so good I had to steal it from Danny Coleman's blog Following Jesus. (Ah, forget the irony.)

The story is that a gentleman left the following message on a church's voicemail, expressing his concern about the movements of a woman in the worship band: Concerned Pastor voice mail.

Apparently the worship leader got ahold of the voicemail and remixed it: Concerned Pastor Remix.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 12:15 AM |

Friday, May 23, 2008  

Seamus Goes to Jail

A strange thing happened to my friend Seamus the other day. He went to the mall to buy some new shorts for the summer and ended up wandering the mall doing window shopping. He isn't the political type, so what happened to him really can't be attributed to anything sinister on his part; he also isn't one to involve himself in moral issues, or social issues, despite my many attempts to get him to attend some of the functions I frequent. They are too divisive, he says, and prefers to surf, ride his bike, and try to figure out how to get women to date him.

Anyway, he goes to the mall in Daytona Beach and he's wearing a hunter-green T-shirt with no writing on it. I mean there was nothing on it: no writing, no messages, no pictures, no flowers or animals or beach scenes, no advertisements for products or services or places, and no embroidery to indicate, maybe, some status, as in Izod, Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. It was just a plain T-shirt. It wasn't a cheap T-shirt, like Hanes or Fruit of the Loom undershirts which come bagged together in plastic, but rather a well-made T-shirt designed to be worn out and with casual attire. It even had a small pocket. It wasn't a worn-out shirt, either. So when the mall police accosted him near the food court, it was a huge surprise to Seamus.

As he stood looking in the window at a GNC, two mall security guards approached him and one of them said, "Excuse me, sir, I'm Officer Rick and but we need to speak with you." The other officer distanced himself about a foot and spoke into a walkie-talkie as he looked around suspiciously. "We have received complaints about your T-shirt. We're going to have to ask you to turn it inside out, or remove it."

"What's wrong with my T-shirt?"

"It contains subversive, offensive language. Obviously it's an anti-war T-shirt. People have complained. You will have to turn it inside out or remove it."

"What difference would it make if I turn it inside out? It's the same on the inside—there's nothing written there."

"Then you've have to remove the shirt, sir. If you don't we'll have to ask you to leave the mall area."

"There's nothing on my shirt!" Seamus was getting agitated.

"Oh yes there is. My partner and I recently completed two-week 'behavior detection' training. We know what to be on the lookout for. It's similar to the SPOT program currently deployed in airline passenger facilities."

"SPOT? What is SPOT?"

"Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques."

"And what exactly does my T-shirt say that's so offensive and subversive that it's drawn a complaint from someone here in the mall?"

"Obviously it's an abstract expression of opposition to the US government's policies in the Middle East." [ MORE ]

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 11:05 PM |

Wednesday, May 21, 2008  

Are We There Yet?

The problem with Utopia is not so much that it's a place somewhere in the future, nor even that it's not a real place. The problem is that we can only get to it by a process known as Progress. Progress requires change, and we have to keep things changing so that we can make progress toward the ultimate goal: Utopia. Now I don't have any illusion that people who seek political change, whether or not in terms of progress, really want to get to Utopia, but if not this wonderful place, then I'm not sure where they think progress in terms of political change is going to get them. Maybe just better, but better isn't as good as Utopia, so let's assume we want Utopia to be our destination after all the conspicuous changes and progresses.

Last Thursday, May 15, a columnist for The Independent hit upon the idea of making progress toward Utopia by mixing "some œstrogen into the environmentalist palette." He means feminism, the doctrine that "women have control over their own bodies—through contraception, abortion and general independence—they choose not to be perpetually pregnant." This will enable us to make progress toward our goal of limiting the world's population, so that we may get to Utopia, or someplace nearby. Fewer people will mean less food needed to feed everyone, smaller carbon footprints and thus less global warming, fewer political problems, less wars and more peace, etc. Feminism is the mechanism that will get us there.

On May 2, The Texas Observer published an excerpt from Robert Bryce's new book Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence, in which he explains that efficiency in fuel consumption, as expressed in Toyota's hybrid Prius, for example, is not going to help Americans use less energy. Drivers will still use up available gasoline, only more efficiently. Not only will we not get to a petroleum-free Utopia, but we'll get there faster. Instead, he argues in his book, we should be looking toward technological advances in electricity and batteries to get us away from oil. So, yes, we'll still be able to drive cars in Utopia!

Now I don't intend to make light of these two viewpoints, which are merely two among millions of others, as they concern our ongoing battle with the many ills of living on a planet with finite resources. I want to note what they both have in common. No, it's not that they both believe in Utopia and Progress, because I don't know that they really are card-carrying members of those select social clubs.

What they have in common is the presupposition that by changing a few things now, we can effect a future that will have as much to do about the present as it does about its distance from us today. The problem is that they have no covering model for connecting the present, the changes they propose, and the effects of those changes. Since they desire the effects, and believe that changes in the present will effectively get them the future effects they desire, they ought to have a causal model for ensuring that what they do today will result in what they desire in the future. It won't do simply to say that we can change things today and therefore, all things being equal, what we want will follow.

They want to be futurists; instead they end up behaving like oracles with prophecies divined from the entrails of contemporary intuitions.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 11:05 PM |

Old Is the New New

Go Green—Buy a Used Car. It's Better Than a Hybrid
May 19, 2008

Ditching your gas guzzler is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, but if you really want to do something about global warming, get a used car. You'll be putting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

As Matt Power notes in this month's issue of
Wired, hybrids get great gas mileage but it takes 113 million BTUs of energy to make a Toyota Prius. Because there are about 113,000 BTUs of energy in a gallon of gasoline, the Prius has consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it reaches the showroom. Think of it as a carbon debt—one you won't pay off until the Prius has turned over 46,000 miles or so.

There's an easy way to avoid that debt—buy a used car. The debt has already been paid. But not just any used car will do.

It has to be something fuel efficient. Like, say, a 1998 Toyota Tercel that gets 27 mpg city / 35 mpg highway miles. The Prius will have to go 100,000 miles to achieve the same carbon savings as the 10-year-old Tercel. Get behind the wheel of a 1994 Geo Metro XFi, which matches the Prius' 46 mpg, and the Prius would never close the carbon gap, Power writes.


I know this story well, especially since my used-but-well-maintained 1988 Toyota Corolla achieved a respectable 35 mpg highway for my long commute to Jacksonville. Alas, that high number dropped to 32 mpg using gasoline with 10 percent ethanol—and then the transmission exploded along I-95 near St Augustine. At $800 for a rebuilt transmission, I elected not to have it repaired. So RIP.

posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 7:45 AM |
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