Friday, November 11, 2005

What happened to the wireless access in the Starbuck's on cap square, dammit? It's supposed to be there! I wouldn't have even thought of going in there except they were supposed to have wireless access, and I had about a half-hour to check the morning news, so I settled in with a cup of coffee but when I fired up the laptop — no access! Just a signal from another nearby laptop, probably searching for a signal from Starbuck's, too. And the coffee wasn't that good. I'd much rather drink the good stuff at Michelangelo's.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Amtrak Director David Gunn Fired

And why should you care? Is there a reason any longer for America to have a cross-country passenger railroad service running on a regular schedule? The thickly-populated east and west coast have almost always needed a fast, reliable mass transit system, but few people seem to want to ride the train from coast to coast, chosing instead the speed of airline travel.

Congress has kept Amtrak afloat, but only with a metaphoric nose above the water by providing it a little over a billion dollars each year, the barest minimum subsidy. (Commerical airlines and road maintenance, it is worth noting, received subsidies worth hundreds of billions each year.) The Bush administration this year proposed a subsidy for Amtrak of $630 million and demanded that it find a way to make the railroad pay for itself, something no major passenger railroad has ever done.

Gunn was reported to "clash" with the Amtrak Board of Directors, all of whom were appointed by President Bush, most of them to interim appointments that will expire when Congress retires from the current session. Is it possible they'll appoint a new director with no ties to the Bush administration, a director who will miraculously find a way to run the railroad at a profit on a budget of a billion dollars a year?

I figure it this way: Cross-country passenger trains will be cut back to next to nothing, if not eliminated entirely, when states refust to fund passenger rail within their borders. The bulk of Amtrak's subsidies will end up in the northeast corridor. California will fund their passenger rail largely on their own, maybe with a small subsidy.
Faith Healer Loses Patient During Routine Miracle

The American Faith-Healing Association issued a statement saying that trinity-invocation and snake-handling guidelines were followed during the procedure. [link to The Onion]

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Too Much Sex On TV? What Channel Are YOU Watching?

I read in the paper today that seventy percent of all television shows include an average of five sex scenes each and every hour. Five sex scenes every hour? I don't watch a lot of television, but I've never seen any show with five sex scenes in it. What are they counting? Kissing? I see more sex flipping through the pages of one issue of The Onion than I do in an evening of watching television. They've got to be watching channels that I don't get.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

God Wins!

The Kansas State Board of Education approved a new education standard to include the teaching of intelligent design, the belief that life is so mind-bogglingly complex it must have been designed by someone or something intelligent; Steven Hawking, for example. I’m not sure Hawking designed the known universe, but he does seem to know a suspiciously great deal about it.

If Hawking didn’t design everything in sight (and a whole lot more), I guess it could have been done by anybody else with a mind the size of a planet. There’s also the remote possibility it could have been something supernatural; I mean to say that if something or somebody designed the natural world, then by definition he, she or it could be supernatural, right?

But it’s definitely not a god. That’s completely out of the question, because a big, hairy court case trying that very question has just wrapped up and all the experts agree, almost, that there’s no way this is a religious idea. It’s a good, legally valid, scientific theory and god’s got nothing to do with it, much.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I read several opinions regarding “gender-neutral” (mixed-sex) bathrooms on Ann Althouse’s blog, and don’t know what to think because I’ve just come back to the States after living in Japan for four years, where bath houses, called onsen, are separated into men’s and women’s halves, but it wasn’t at all unusual for me to climb into the same steaming tub with several boys and girls so young they weren’t at all shy about staring at me. I’m tall, very skinny, and very light-skinned — I was used to drawing stares in Japan, but I found myself strangely intimidated by the presence of other people’s children in the bath, precisely because fears of pedophiles and other perverts would prevent such mixed-sex bathing from ever happening in almost any setting outside a private residence in the States. Having no idea at all how to act, I jumped into the tub and slouched into the water until it was up to my chin. They didn’t stop staring, but at least I didn’t feel as though I was on parade.

I eventually got used to bathing in the presence of other people’s children (unless they were American children; I never felt comfortable bathing with them; I guess the cultural norm was too deeply ingrained). However, there were not only mixed-sex children in the men’s onsen, but women as well! They weren’t bathing, they were the cleaning ladies, and for the most part they acted as though the men around them were invisible, discreetly planning every movement so that they never had to so much as excuse themselves to get out of the way. The men did much the same. There was one occasion, though, when curiosity apparently became too much of a temptation for a cleaning lady at an onsen in Misawa, and she stared like a little girl. I’ve never felt so naked in my life.

A bath house is not a toilet, but I’ve been in many public toilets in Europe attended by cleaning ladies, and they weren’t at all shy about noting my presence. In a public toilet in Paris, a cleaning lady was apparently so determined to keep to her schedule that she hardly waited for me to step away from the urinal I was using.

I don’t mean to say that my experiences were at all comparable to the kind of intrusion that seems to offend Althouse; I think I agree with her objections to having to share a public toilet with men. I know my mother would have the same objections. But isn’t that a cultural norm that could, and probably will eventually change? The Europeans didn’t seem at all tripped up by mixing sexes in one toilet (granting that the women weren’t actually using the toilets I visited), and the Japanese weren’t bothered by letting their daughters bathe with grown men (or I don’t think they were, anyway).