Archive for May, 2005

Twisting Language

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Town Hall columnist Mike S. Adams has written an article in which he rails against leftist dogma in the University classroom.

I read his column from time to time, and though I generally agree with conservative columnists, Mr. Adams has a tendency to twist events and statements in a manner I more commonly observe coming from the other side of the political fence.

The following is the text of an email I just sent him:

From your article:

[College President Ian Newbould said,] “It should be noted that our students are intelligent and thoughtful. They can, and often do, disagree with Professor Christensen, without academic penalty.”

Note that Newbould states that students “often” disagree without penalty. Does that mean that they sometimes, or perhaps often, disagree with penalty?

With respect, Mr. Adams — you appear to be twisting his words in your zeal to make your point. The meat of the statement is: “They can… disagree with Professor Christensen, without academic penalty.” “[A]nd often do” is grammatically and logically a subsidiary phrase within the sentence.

You come precariously close to doing to Newbould what the bully did in your school days. His statement, (if it is to believed, of course) pretty clearly states that the answer to you question is “No”.

I’ve read a good number of your articles, and though you tend to have the right idea, you also have a tendency to weaken your own point by substituting specious nitpicking for genuine argument.

There can be no constructive discussion in the absence of intellectual honesty. Adams’ twisting of language is either a subtle form of deception, or evidence of a genuine inability to grasp hard logic. Either way he makes conservatives look petty and insincere.

Either way it is unacceptable from either side of the political fence.

Privacy Wars III: Revenge of the Smokers

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

About two months ago I posted a couple times (here and here) about the disturbing trend of employers refusing to hire smokers. I think (and argued) that it’s an invasion of privacy to tell someone they are not allowed to smoke on their own time, in their own home — but it is happening more and more often. Frequently the cited reason is reduced health care costs for the company.

Today, Larry Elder takes that argument an amusing step further: he uses precisely the same argument forwarded for firing (or refusing to hire) smokers, and suggests these companies could likewise refuse to hire Democrats.

Go forth and read.

Widgety Hackery

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

Final Update: The makers of the “Day in History” widget have changed the code in such a way that there is no longer any way to hack it. Sorry folks. It was Javascript, but is now what appears to be a compiled program. I will not distribute the old hackable version, though perhaps it can be found elsewhere. I will leave this page up for those who still want to see it — perhaps there’s still something to be learned from it. Thanks for stopping by, and I’m sorry I don’t have any better news.

I got my copy of Mac OS X “Tiger” a couple days ago, and promptly fell upon the Widgets feature. I’m a web guy, and widgets (quite brilliantly) are essentially miniature web pages — they are constructed from all the same things you use to make web pages.

This, of course, makes them almost trivially easy to hack.

As I was browsing the Widgets download page, I noticed this one, which is a “Today in History” calendar, listing interesting historic tidbits for today’s (or any other you select) date.

One feature of this Widget is that the entries have links in them, so that if you have the World Book Encyclopedia software installed on your computer, it takes you straight to the related article. That’s all well and good if you have that program, but I figured I could make it a bit more useful — so I rummaged around in the guts of the thing and jimmied it so that the links instead lead you to Wikipedia.

Here’s how to do it:

First off, I did this all in TextWrangler. (You can also use BBEdit if you have it.) If you don’t have TextWrangler, go download it — it’s free! (Truly, this is one of those programs that Apple should just stick on every Mac at the factory!) We’ll be using grep, but don’t worry if you’re not familiar with it, I’ll walk you through it all. (The reason I insist on the two programs listed above is that there are different variations of grep from application to application. BBEdit and TextWrangler, from the same company, have identical implementations.)

Okay, ready? Here we go…. (more…)

Note to self…

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

[E]ven if you think hunting is morally wrong, and even if you’re right to think soâ?? the fact remains that if you run around in the woods dressed like a deer people are going to shoot at you.

A-yup.

Update: Yes, that means follow the link.