Friday, January 10, 2003

Rivendell Bicycle Works

Cloaks, swords, waybread, and now bikes . . . those elves can do anything. Seriously, though--I want one of these. Don't they look just great?
I've read Lord of the Rings in its entirety four times, and I've done a lot of dipping into it for favorite and key passages, so I figured I knew the story pretty well, even though it's been three years since my last full re-read. Well, after reading this synopsis of the books, it's clear that my memory isn't as good as it once was. Bummer.

(Oh, and I know that it's always fun for political pundits on all sides of the spectrum to find allegorical parallels for their worldviews in whatever happens to be the major pop-culture phenomenon of the day, but come on.)

Wednesday, January 08, 2003


Been a bit since I've heard from you guys about where you are. Regardless, I finished the most famous part of the book, "The Grand Inquisitor" (even available on its own) yesterday. And you all? If you haven't been there yet, here's a topic to discuss later (or now if you have). Is any of Ivan's character based on the Grand Inquisitor that was Torquemada listed as the most evil man ever on this site (posted by Jaq back in Oct) ? Other thoughts on the Grand Inquisitor?
Do you need Singlefile? Do you want Singlefile? Do I need Singlefile?

Singlefile is an easy-to-use web-based service that helps you organize the books you own, the books you are reading, the books you've read and the books you want to read.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

SF writer William Gibson is many things: he's one of the foremost pioneers of the cyberpunk subgenre; he's the writer of one of the finest opening sentences of a novel ever (Neuromancer: "The sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel"); and now he's a blogger.

A survey of world values

[The University of Michigan] has been sending out hundreds of questions for the past 25 years (it now covers 78 countries with 85% of the world's population). Its distinctive feature is the way it organises the replies. It arranges them in two broad categories. The first it calls traditional values; the second, values of self-expression.

The survey defines “traditional values” as those of religion, family and country. Traditionalists say religion is important in their lives. They have a strong sense of national pride, think children should be taught to obey and that the first duty of a child is to make his or her parents proud. They say abortion, euthanasia, divorce and suicide are never justifiable. At the other end of this spectrum are “secular-rational” values: they emphasise the opposite qualities.

The other category looks at “quality of life” attributes. At one end of this spectrum are the values people hold when the struggle for survival is uppermost: they say that economic and physical security are more important than self-expression. People who cannot take food or safety for granted tend to dislike foreigners, homosexuals and people with AIDS. They are wary of any form of political activity, even signing a petition. And they think men make better political leaders than women. “Self-expression” values are the opposite.

While this Economist article remarks that the postion of the United States is "strange" (i.e. traditional + self-expression), it's interesting (to me atleast) to note that its nearest neighbours are Australia and Canada. Of other English speaking countries, Britain and New Zealand seem to be more similar to Western Europeans.

So now a question for you, Dear Reader. Where do you (personally) fit on the World Value-O-Meter?

Monday, January 06, 2003

Steven Den Beste has written one of the grimmest posts I've read, anywhere, pertaining to this weekend's round of suicide bombings in Tel Aviv. Particularly scary is his last sentence, which has had me thinking ever since I read it. What are we to make of a culture that has embraced death to such a degree as the Palestinians have?

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Remember the parody of Fellowship of the Ring that I posted a couple of months ago? And you know how right now, The Two Towers is in general release? Can you see where I'm going with this? (This one's not as funny, but it's still amusing....)