Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's a vote? New post at W4

I have a new post at W4 that has been the product of much thought, though I had for a while decided that it would never actually be written. It's on the nature of the vote. It has been prompted by the crazy news that some so-called pro-lifers are considering voting for Barak Obama. To my mind the best comment on this was by my co-blogger Zippy in a combox:

This may be our first genuinely postmodern election cycle. "Zionists for Hitler!"
I couldn't have said it better myself. But as I do have more to say on the meaning of voting, I've said it, here.

But feel free to comment here, if you like. :-)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Comments moderation removed

Dear readers,

I have removed comments moderation and the requirement for blogger ID for the time being. You will have to do one of those things where you type the word you see. I hope that this will work well.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A joke about penguins

I had been drafting a really depressing post about a book I'm re-reading (In the Beginning, one of his third-tier ones) by Jewish novelist Chaim Potok and about how Israel isn't defending herself and stuff, but it will have to wait. I got so depressed trying to write it that it's still in draft.

So to go along with the extremely profound post below about ziploc bags, herewith a joke I found on Dawn Eden's blog:

A policeman is out on patrol when he sees a man driving a convertible with a bunch of penguins in the back seat. The cop pulls him over and says, "Hey, you can't drive around with a bunch of penguins like that. I want you to take those penguins to the zoo right now!" The driver says, "Sure thing, officer. Right away. I don't want any trouble." And the policeman lets him drive off. The next day the policeman sees the same guy out with the same penguins, only this time they're wearing dark glasses and bathing suits. So he pulls him over. "Hey! I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo yesterday." The man looks a little puzzled. "Yes, sir, officer. I did just as you said. Today they want to go to the beach."

I really like that one.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ziploc bags--Supply creates its own demand

I tried really hard to think of something profound to say about Pentecost, today being that feast. But nothing came to mind. So rather than bore you with my uninspired thoughts about the Holy Ghost, or even about the collect for Pentecost, I thought I would talk about something I know a lot more about. Ziploc bags.

Why in the world? (I hear you ask.) Well, because I was putting something into a ziploc bag the other evening, and it suddenly occurred to me that I understand now the good sense in which supply creates its own demand. (This, as all of you know, is a saying in economics.) Now, we all have heard people talk about how terrible it is for manufacturers to create by advertising a desire in people for something they never previously wanted. It's supposed to be a form of stimulating lust and so forth. It can be made to sound faintly indecent--making people think they need something that they manifestly don't need. It's easiest to make it sound bad if you get on a roll talking about bigger cars or about food that is probably going to make people fat and isn't good for them anyway. Whiny kids and breakfast cereal commercials are another good target.

But I would bet that I'm not that much over the average age of the people in my audience of, oh, two to five people who will ever read this post. And so I'll bet most of you can remember a world without ziploc bags. Remember? All my toys used to be tumbled into a big padded white toy box. It was like I was putting them away in a padded cell. A very messy padded cell, and one that got dirtier and dirtier as the years went by, so that eventually it was grey and the plastic torn, and I would find pieces of long-forgotten toys rattling around inside. Even if my parents had wanted to be good citizens and give away my toys to the poor(er) as I outgrew them (I having no younger siblings), they couldn't have, because every set and everything with parts was separated into its component parts, which were scattered to the four winds. Or piled into the toy box.

Leftover food had to be kept in tupperware. This was after tupperware. But if it got forgotten in the fridge, the tupperware had mold on it, which might or might not wash off. You couldn't just throw it away. You had to try to scrub it. And sometimes the tupperware lost its seal, or the plastic wrap didn't cling, or one was foolish enough to use tinfoil, which didn't really seal out air, and stuff got completely dried out. (I just recently got rid of a lot of old tupperware.)

And don't even get me started talking about what one did with the pieces from half-finished jigsaw puzzles, nuts and bolts that were no longer in their blister packs, or tiny little lego pieces.

The world needed ziploc bags. The world didn't know that it needed ziploc bags, but it did. Big ones, medium-sized ones, and small ones.

Is need relative? Sure it is. I would rather have the food (that gets dry if not well-sealed) and no ziploc bags to seal it in than have the bags and no food. Right. Check. I'm there.

But the minute whoever-he-was (I haven't googled to try to find out) invented ziploc bags, the world woke up and began to think about how, if it could afford this new product, it could solve a lot of niggly, annoying, practical problems in storage.

My kids have a building toy called Wedgits. I recommend it, with the proviso that if you have more than one child of any age from two to fifteen years old, they will probably squabble over these things. They are very cool. You can build all kinds of fascinating shapes with them. They come in an interesting box that has a plastic storage piece in the bottom. If you put the set of Wedgits together perfectly into the three-dimensional shape of a diamond, the diamond, containing all the Wedgits in that set, will fit back into the storage unit it came in. But who has the time to figure out how to do that every time? And I want the four-year-old to be able to pick up for herself. Ziploc bags.

In other words, and to put it prosaically, this was a case where people did not lust over something that was bad for them or that they should not want as a result of the desire-creation of the market. They looked at something, ingeniously designed, that would help make their lives more efficient, they discovered that it was cheap enough for them to afford, and they rationally decided to buy it. Supply created its own demand, and the rest is history.

I'm for it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Blessed Feast of the Ascension

The feast of the Ascension has been one of my favorite church holy days for a long time. It celebrates all that great stuff from the Epistle to the Hebrews: Jesus is both man and God. Therefore, when Jesus goes back to heaven where he "sitteth on the right hand of the Father," man has actually been exalted to the heavens in Christ. This was the first time that a resurrected human body had gone to heaven. Even though Elijah had apparently been taken up living into heaven, he didn't have a glorified body. We aren't told what happened to his ordinary body, but presumably he has to wait for the resurrection of the dead along with the rest of us for his resurrection body. Jesus was, as Paul says in I Corinthians, "the firstfruits of them that sleep." He was the first one to be risen in a new body that will never die. So when he ascended into heaven, he took that glorified humanity back to the Father, where it had never been before. From there he intercedes for us, for as Hebrews says, he is a fitting high priest for us, having both offered himself for our sins and also being human as we are.

My impression is that Ascension did not always have an octave. Cranmer wrote his own collect for the Sunday after Ascension, basing it on a song that the Venerable Bede is supposed to have sung on his deathbed. Here are both collects for Ascension.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

P.S. On a mundane note, and in case anyone else has this problem, I figured out how to turn on "sent items" in Yahoo mail. George was no help. The relevant thing to click is hidden over in mail options.