Civic Knowledge

I discovered this latest "Civic Knowledge" quiz via one of my students.  I was pleased to get a perfect 33 out of 33 score (average score for "college educators" 55%.  I was pretty determined even before answering the questions that any I missed would surely be invalid questions.  Some of these definitely had very little to do with civic literacy.  As Kevin Drum suggests, is it so bad if Americans don't know what philosophical points of agreement Aristotle, Plato, and Thomas Aquinas shared?  He also points out that the kids are alright.  All sorts of tests like to make fun of how little our High School students know, but tell us how little ordinary adults know.  This one does and the results really are not that pretty regardless of age (age breakdown and fascinating comments over at Drum's link). 

I'm going to be bold and enable comments so you can tell me how you did (feel free to be anonymous).  Of course, if nobody comments, I'll just get depressed and disable them.  [Or so was my intention except for the fact that the new blogging software NCSU installed (after keeping the blogs down for some time and ruining the font in all my old posts) does not seem to want to allow comments for this post, as I designated, but rather the previous post, for which I did not designate comments.]

 

Hardware woes

Thought I'd go with two technology/computer posts in a row and get that out of my system for the next year.  Most of my work at home is done on a desktop upstairs connected to our main downstairs computer by a wireless network.  For the first several months, this computer used to lose the wireless signal all the time and I'd have to patiently sit through a network reset before continuing what I was doing.  I chalked this up to electronic interference from cordless phones, microwaves, etc., which I had read so many dire warnings about.  Turns out it was none of the above.  I simply bought a new wireless network card for this computer and haven't had a network signal dropped since.  Frustrating to think how much time was wasted over a malfunctioning part I did not even realize was not working.  So, much better, but then for the longest time webpages up here did not want to load in and I would have to reset the browser to get them to work.  Again, I figured probably not much I could do about it.  Then, my wireless router goes completely dead, I buy a new (cheaper, no less) one and all of a sudden, the internet works perfectly up here.  Again, I think of all the time I wasted when I could have just replaced a $30 part.  I'm not entirely sure what the moral of this story is, but it feels good to share.  And now, back to politics (and urinal technology).

My email woes

Turns out that I was about the only person left using Eudora for email.  I've been using this so long that I cannot remember when I started (presumably sometime in the mid 1990's at Ohio State).  I've been using this on borrowed time for quite a while, as Qualcomm stopped making and supporting Eudora.  Alas, I finally lost full functionality in my Eudora 6.2 which I should have lost a year ago and didn't.  Eudora 7 never worked with NCSU email servers and it turns out that Eudora 8 is not Eudora at all, but Mozilla Thunderbird.  So, my obsession the past three days has been to find a suitable replacement for Eudora.  Simple, you'd think.  But I spend more time on email than anything except web-browsing and it turns out I'm pretty particular with my email software– unlike the rest of my life ;-).  So, I must have tried at least half a dozen email programs this weekend and they all seemed to have some fatal flaw (for my purposes, at least) as compared to Eudora.  In the end, I've decided to join the masses and use Thunderbird–largely so I can stop obsessing.  But I'm not happy about it.

Obama and change

Kevin Drum made a really good point earlier in the week that I've also been hearing/reading a lot of rumblings on:

CLINTONITES….Just a quick comment on a common
meme: Why is Barack Obama surrounding himself with so many Clinton
retreads? That's not change we can believe in!

Sure, sure, but look: anybody who's been active in liberal
governance for more than eight years is likely to be a Clintonite. It
was the only game in town during the 90s. And anybody who's been active
less than eight years probably doesn't have the experience to get a top
level position. So there's really no way around this. There are some
fresh faces around for Obama to tap, but for the most part, when you're
staffing highly visible and responsible positions, you want someone who
has at least some experience to fall back on. And since Bill Clinton is
the only Democrat to hold the presidency in the past 28 years, that
means someone who served in the Clinton administration.

If you want change (which, let's be honest, basically means a liberal policy agenda) you really need experienced operators who know what they're doing in order to bring about change.  Who all these "new" people without Clinton administration experience that Obama should bring it that will actually be able to get things through Congress is a mystery to me.  I love the choice of Tom Daschle as HHS Secretary and to push Health care reform.  More on my personal connection to Daschle later.

 

Yuck

I stop blogging for a few days to discover that the Wolfblogs system is down for a couple days for a big update– the main effect of which seems to be to make all my existing entries look really ugly.  Hopefully, new entries won't be so ugly.  I guess I'll see in a few minutes.  So, keeping with the yuck theme, one entry I meant to write earlier this week was about this fascinating article about no-flow urinals.  I must say, I feel quite eco-friendly whenever I use of these and no flushing is required, but it turns out they are not all they are cracked up to be.  From the N&O:

Men since Adam have survived without urinals that flush. By the early
1990s, concerns over water shortages and environmental impact spawned a
garage industry for urinals that don't use water.

Since then, the
devices, which rely on special oil-filled drain traps, have become the
rage in eco-conscious communities nationwide, especially in
water-worried California and the arid Southwest. They're now
fastest-growing segment of the U.S. urinal market, accounting for
250,000 of its 12 million units, thanks largely to powerful advocates…

Still, an inconvenient truth hovers over the no-flush urinal industry.
It's that many buyers and one-time fans say that the urinals are icky,
tricky and costly to maintain…

The feature in question is the no-flush urinal's trap. It's the size
of a coffee mug and locks into the urinal drain. Urine flows under the
trap's layer of scented blue oil much as vinegar flows through salad
oil. At the same time, the oil blocks release of sewer gases in the
drain line.

"They're not a problem if they're maintained
properly," said Falcon vice president Daniel Gleiberman, whose products
are also sold under the Sloan Valve Co. name. Customers with
well-trained, well-managed and low-turnover maintenance staffs tend to
agree with Gleiberman.

Alas, apparently things are so pretty when they are not properly maintained.  If something goes wrong with the seal, it's not pretty.  Just keep flushing.

 

No communion for Obama supporters

This really annoys me

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his
parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if
they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect
supports abortion, and supporting him “constitutes material cooperation
with intrinsic evil.”

This priest has quite a way with words, too:

“Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life
alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil,
and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full
communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law.
Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and
unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest
they eat and drink their own condemnation.
”  (emphasis mine).

I fully understand and sympathize with the Catholic Church's position on abortion.  What I hate is when Catholic leaders (e.g., my bishop here in Raleigh), put abortion so far above all other issues.  I fully believe that a fetus is a human life,  and surely the Catholic church has a legitimate interest and a political role to play in advocating to protect that life.  But I think the position of this priest and much Catholic leadership places the interests of these unborn humans above the millions of Americans already living post-birth lives.  One of the reasons I am proud to be a Catholic is the tremendous commitment to social justice of the Catholic Church.  Things like just wage, concern for the poor, environmental stewardship, etc., materially and profoundly affect the lives of millions of already living people.  Heck, most of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching (abortion aside, obviously) could hardly be distinguished from the Democratic party platform.  I just do not buy the logic of putting aside all these other principles which just as clearly affect human lives in favor of a single principle.  (And not even a whole principle at that– capital punishment does not exactly support “the life and dignity of the human person”).  Not to mention the fact that the policies of the Democratic party are probably much more likely to ameliorate the social circumstances most likely to lead to abortions. 

All that aside, I think this article is also an interesting reflection on the fact that the media just loves communion denial stories.  Back in 2004, we had the “wafer watch” with John Kerry.  There are thousands of priests across America.  The pronouncements of a single priest, speaking without authority from his Bishop, simply to not amount to news.  When this priest's Bishop makes this argument, okay, it is real news.  Until then, the AP should save stories like this for the Greenville News

Speeding tickets and lawyers

Fortunately, it has been about 10 years or so since I last got a speeding ticket.  I'm pretty sure, that like Tuesday's ticket (63 in a 45), that one was also for 18 over (53 in a 35, that so should have been a 45).  In Ohio, they just let me pay my $100 or so and be done with it.  Here in NC, at 18 over, I apparently have no choice but to go to court.  Or so I thought.  Just 3 days after I got the ticket, I have now received at least a dozen solicitations from lawyers telling me they'll take care of it all for me for just $200 or so.  Seems like a pretty good little system they've got.  In NC, we have this oddly-named every-three-year forgiveness policy termed “Prayer for Justice Continued.”  Apparently, you ask for this, almost always get it, and you are out $120 in court costs but no points on your record.  For $200, the lawyers will “pay all your costs.”  So, my guess is for a less than 5 minute conversation with the traffic ADA, they earn $80 or so.  Not a bad deal.  I am pretty impressed by the efficiency of all the traffic attorneys
sending me letters with the details of my case so quickly.  I'm planning on being brave and asking for the PJC myself and saving the $80.  I'll report back on the matter December 18.

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