Archives : December 2003

2003 December 13

Apologies for massive LJ reposts

Oops. I redefined my archive naming format yesterday, and apparently LJ decided every one of those renamed posts was new. Sorry for spamming your friends pages.

(For those who might care, I switched from a numbered-permalink scheme to one based off the entry title. This is because it turns out that Movable Type doesn't save entry id numbers in its export-backup utility, so if I ever had to rebuild from scratch, then any links anybody had made to my old articles would be lost. Are any of my old articles really important enough to care about not breaking permalinks? No, not really, but it's still the Right Thing To Do.)

2003 December 15


Yesterday was plainly a Good Day in the adventure in Iraq. Congratulations to the US Army for hunting down Saddam Hussein, and more congratulations for doing the right thing and capturing him for trial rather than shooting him 'while resisting' -- this marks an important way the Americans are distinguishable from their enemies.[*] Hussein is an evil man, and will deserve whatever fate comes to him.

One can say all of the above without believing that the Adventure in Iraq was justified, or that this benefit (which I think is likely to be by far the biggest one to result from the war) necessarily exceeds the costs to be borne from fighting it. I remain un-sanguine about the prospects of decent government in Iraq lasting for more than a few years. If it turns out I'm wrong, I will apologize to anyone who was polite in disagreeing with me.

[* It would be nice not to need reassurance, but meanwhile we have a US Army Lt Colonel quoted in the NY Times saying, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," while overseeing an operation wrapping an Iraqi village in razor wire. Do you need to destroy the village to save it, Colonel?]

Update (12/16): 'Photodude' has said what needed to be said, much better than I managed. What I said up there remains true, but somewhat aside of the real point:

Cranky Americans: ... They had just seen the Long Reigning Demon of their Nightmares, flashed on the screen, reduced to a disheveled derelict who clearly posed no threat to anyone. In the wake of that visual shock, many probably next saw the face of someone lost flashing through their mind. Or simply the faceless thousands. Decades of pent up emotion, released in a second.


Anger. Joy. Vengeance. Relief. Condescending disgust. Even humiliation. This harsh mixture of emotions must be very tough, especially coming in such a sudden torrent, and it will take some time for them to be internally resolved. Decades of hard impressions were shattered yesterday for millions of people.

Yes. That's more like it. It was a Good Day for Iraq.

[Meanwhile, I find I have a curious resistance to using the alias 'Photodude' without quotes. Logically it's no different than Atrios or Tacitus, which I'm happy to treat as plain names. Apparently I'm a snob on this point.]

Hiding from the storm

So the storm that just snowed on Boston has arrived in Halifax as heavy rains and high winds -- the waves are sweeping right over the breakwater, and the spray is crashing 30-40' in the air at Tribune Head. Enough rain has come down that it's ponding in the backyard. It's a good day to stay in the basement, so I've been hacking around and putting up Christmas lights.

Flipping strings of illuminated lights in a dark room is like having fireflies on a leash.

2003 December 25

Merry Christmas!

It's a dismal, windy, rain-at-times-heavy kind of day in Nova Scotia, and I'm recovering from a 48-hour flu. But it's been a good Christmas anyway. My brother got in yesterday at noon and my grandmother stayed over last night. It was a good dinner last night (Scandinavian-style, we have the feast on Christmas Eve) -- we stayed up late and between my father, brother, and I we polished off an entire bottle of brandy. I swear it was mostly them. (My mother stuck to ouzo on ice.)

There has been some friction between my father and I on various topics over the past years, but it's good that we can set that kind of thing aside for a festival dinner. I feel pretty fortunate to have a family I enjoy sitting around a table drinking with. Christmas wouldn't be much fun, otherwise.

I'm an atheist, so I suppose it's sort of odd I still like to make a big deal out of Christmas, but I say the secular version is still a pretty good holiday. It's important to have at least one time a year to gather the family around a table, and giving presents to loved ones is both fun and worthwhile. I think I did pretty well this year, and by that I mean I managed to find things that people actually wanted.

I know that quite a few of the people likely to bother reading this don't celebrate Christmas, but I'm going to wish you a Merry Christmas anyway. I hope you will accept it in the spirit of Howard Tayler's Muslim friend:

I gave a Christmas present to my Ramadan-celebrating muslim friend at work, along with the apology, "Dude, I know you don't celebrate Christmas, but this is for you."

He responded with what I believe to be sage wisdom: "I don't celebrate Christmas, but I do accept Christmas presents. Thank you." [+]

Merry Christmas, everybody!

2003 December 26

Boxing Day

Jim Henley makes my Christmas thoughts seem dull and pedestrian:

Merry Christmas to All - Had my annual evening in church, singing beautiful songs whose truth I do not credit, with feeling. I love Christmas, the secular and the religious aspects of it. The Incarnation is a compelling story - one well worth organizing civilizations around, even if, like me, you don't believe a word of it. For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son . . .

It's powerful. Awesome in the true sense. What it says about responsibility, empathy and sacrifice chastens us regardless of its facticity.

I remember what it felt like when I finally realized that the Gospels had a literary unity, even in their multiplex versions, that "laid him in a manger" (a place where food goes) foreshadowed the Easter story ("This is my body. Eat.").