Saturday, March 29, 2008

The dying of the light, Earth Hour, And Why Google Has Gone Black

The dying of the light is the best posting I've read about Earth Hour, where we are supposed to shut off the lights for an hour to help save the planet.
Here's Google's smarmy explanation of why they've turned their search screen black for the day. (It does nothing, it means nothing, but they want to stop the weather from changing.)

Here's Thaddeus Tremayne, writing for Samizdata:

With each passing day I become more convinced that the 'green' movement is actually a millenarian psychosis; a mental and spiritual sickness borne, perhaps, from some degree of civilisational exhaustion. Not just a belief that the end of the world is nigh, but an active desire to bring it about. And soon. Ours is not the first age to witness such pandemics of madness but, in the Middle Ages at least, there was the excuse of a near-universal poverty. In such a state of interminable plight, despair may not be the wisest response but it is at least an understandable one.

And here is one of Samizdata's serial commenters, IanB, disagreeing with the terminology, but agreeing with Tremayne:

I'm not sure what "civilisational exhaustion" is. It seems an unnecessarily convoluted explanation whatever it may be. Greenism is just the usual old crap that has always driven religious extremists- an intense desire for spiritual purity, a belief that mundane comforts distract from and obstruct that quest, a belief in a past golden age, and a profound hatred for the lesser mortals outside the cult.

(Addition from March 30th....) Just for grins, here's the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 19 and 20:

"This is the verdict. Light has come into the world. But men love darkness rather than light, for their deeds are evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

In which I support Barack Obama in The Texas Caucuses. Sort of.

My beloved Fort Worth Star-Telegram has rolled out two State Convention weblogs about the delegate selection process for the two major parties. Donkey Tales '08 for the Democrats and Pack Your Trunk '08 for the Republicans. (Get it? Get it? Donkeys have tails? Elephants have trunks? I like it...)

The Republican blog is a fairly calm, sedate place without much activity. Since we're basically Social Darwinists with a winner-take-all primary system, our big decision has already been made. No one has much to gain by being a delegate, other than pride, some buttons, and a funny hat. There are rumors that the Texas Libertarians will try to pack the Republican events, but I don't think the twelve of us can make that much of a difference.

The Democrats, however, in their quest for fairness, equal representation, and blah, blah, blah, have a Byzantine system where percentages, precincts, and delegates count for wildly fluctuating levels of proportional influence. No one has any idea how it is supposed to work. We still have no idea who won Texas. And does it even matter? Because 25 years ago, the Democrats put a system of Superdelegates in place - Party Bosses who can gather in a smoke-filled room and overturn all of the above if they don't like the results. For instance, if the voters nominate a well-qualified African-American candidate instead of someone named Clinton, party hacks will still have a chance to overturn the decision. So Obama and The Clintons might be throwing kitchen sinks at each other for months.

John McCain is floating above the fray, and now looks a lot like the love child of Betsy Ross and George Washington.

Lord have mercy, I love it. Pass the popcorn.

Here's where it got weird for me. I work with someone who (politically) is a devout, snake-handling, foot-washing, speaking-in-tongues, Spirit-filled Republican. If she updated her blog more often, she could be added to the "People who make me look like a Marxist Humanities Professor" category in the blogroll to your right. Last year she had a Ronald Reagan calendar. Ronnie said it, She believes it, That settles it. Amen.

A few days ago she sent me the following email. After getting her permission to post this I've also changed the things in parentheses to protect their identities. This family, after all, is going undercover into strange territory. Here it is:

Ok, I know that you probably do not have a whole lot of time to help me with this, but I need someone that can express themselves in writing really well. And you are the first one to pop into my head. Lucky you.
Anyway, my husband who has ALWAYS been a Republican, until the day my son was born with
(insert serious disability) as well as our daughter, is now wanting to be considered as a delegate for Obama. This is a milestone for the (Anonymous) clan - you have to understand that. I don’t really know where to start with this.
On Saturday March 29th, they are going to be selecting delegates and alternates to represent our Precinct 1251 at the State Convention in Austin.
(Mr. Anonymous), my husband, needs to have a letter introducing him as a candidate for a delegate position.
Now remember, we have never really been all that involved in politics this way, and it’s a big step so I want to get it just right for him.

I have attached one of the letters from one of the candidates for you to read. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I just do not want his letter to read like all the other ones. So I need a good spin on it. I will give you any information you may need.


(Name of Co-worker who mistakenly believes I'm a good writer instead of a creative typist)

I thought. I pondered. I engaged in serious head scratching. I emailed back, just to make sure there was no way her husband would ever consider supporting She-Whose-Name-Is-Not-Spoken.

One of the signs of a good writer is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of a totally different person. Larry McMurtry, for instance, is famed for his sympathetic women characters. But the only Democrats I've EVER supported were Pete Geren and whoever runs against (anonymous judge). I don't know anything about Democrats, or what they eat, or how they think, or why they like Volvos.

This was too much. But I started typing away, and eventually got it down to this:

Hello, my name is (Husband of The Whited Sepulchre's Co-Worker),

Unlike many of you I am new to the Democratic Party.
Unlike almost all of you, I am new to political participation of any kind.

My indifference ended when my children were born with
(serious disability).

Barack Obama is the only candidate whose platform includes sensible provisions for adults and children with disabilities.

Sentator Obama pledges to:

First, provide Americans with disabilities with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.

Second, end discrimination and promote equal opportunity.
Third, increase the employment rate of workers with disabilities.
And fourth, support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities.

For those who have not already done so, I encourage you to look at the complete program on the Obama ’08 website.

But enough about me and my problems…..

Why do people not care to get involved in politics? The main turn-offs are Big Money, Corruption, and Mud-slinging.

Barack Obama, unlike Senator Clinton, hasn’t taken a dime from Political Action Committees or lobbying groups. His support has come from people like us.
He has none of the baggage associated with Senator Clinton.
In the last two weeks, he has proven that he can eloquently handle the worst that his opponents can throw his way. Including, in the words of his opponent, “the kitchen sink”.

Big Money, Scandals, and Mud-slinging are the main reasons for political apathy. This man is a different kind of candidate. One who has attracted a new breed and a new generation of supporters.

Including me.

Senator Obama has moved me from political indifference to political activism.

For these reasons, I would be proud to represent all of you as a pledged delegate for Barack Obama.

Thank you for your consideration.

I liked it ok. They liked it. They're going to use it. I'll let you know if he gets to be a delegate, although I don't think there's a nickel's worth of difference between Obama and The Clintons on this particular issue.

I keep telling myself "It's for the children". But....But....But.....

I feel so dirty.....

Friday, March 28, 2008

21 - The Blackjack Movie

I saw the new movie "21" tonight.
It's loosely based on the book "Bringing Down The House" by Ben Mezrich, one of my all-time favorite gambling stories.
It seems like I've waited years to see this movie. I give it a 7 on the 10 scale.
Heaven help me if The Libertarian Party triumphs and we have legal gambling in all 50 states. I have enough problems just getting through Shreveport.

The story goes like this, and I promise not to ruin the movie for you....A generic math whiz-kid attending M.I.T. gets recruited to be a member of a blackjack team.
Blackjack teams take advantage of a practice called Card Counting. Blackjack is the only casino game that has a memory. For instance, if a roulette ball has landed on the color red for two dozen straight rolls, the odds against the ball landing on red the next time don't change. The little silver ball doesn't have a memory. Your odds at a particular slot machine don't change after a huge payout. The computer chip in the slot machine (supposedly) has no memory.

But in blackjack, the object of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. Same for the dealer, but he has to keep taking cards until he's reached at least 17. And what happened in the past has an impact on the possibilities for the future. The cards, in this case, DO have a memory, or they do if you're smart enough to remember how many high cards and low cards have been played. It also helps to memorize this chart, known as "basic strategy".

If there are more high cards than low cards left in the deck, that's to the player's advantage. And if you've seen a disproportionate number of low cards leave the dealer's "shoe" of cards, you need to raise your bets accordingly. They player can stop any time, knowing the ratio of high to low cards. The dealer, however, has to take cards until hitting at least 17.
That's when knowledge of what remains in the deck becomes valuable.

If you want to practice this, go here.

Unfortunately, when your bets spike wildly toward the end of a deck, that's when casinos will accuse you of Card Counting, and ask you to leave. (Unfortunately, I have problems counting past 10 without taking my shoes off.)

That's when teams come into play. The math genius sits at the table counting cards, and making minimum bets. He or she signals a team member known as The Big Player to approach the table at a point when the odds favor the customers. The "counter" uses code words in conversation with the dealer, a waitress, or other players to let The Big Player know how "rich" the deck is.
For instance, a reference to "Football" would mean the count is Eleven Plus. (There are eleven people on a football team.) A code word for "The Count is up by Twelve Plus" would be "Eggs", since eggs are sold in quantities of twelve.
Addition from April 2nd....People are coming to this site looking for a complete list of the code words used by the MIT blackjack team. I found "Bringing Down The House" in The Whited Sepulchre archives, and am typing this list for you as a public service:
Tree: +1. A tree looks like a one
Switch: +2. Binary. on or off
Stool: +3. A stool has three legs
Car: +4. Cars have four tires
Glove: +5. five fingers
Gun:+6. Six bullets
Craps: +7. lucky seven
Pool: +8. eight ball
Up to this point, the count isn't high enough in face cards and 10's to justify extravegant bets. But now we're getting somewhere. At this point, the odds are in your favor. Bet semi-recklessly.
Cat: +9. nine lives
Bowling: +10. strike
Football: +11. eleven people on a football team
Eggs: +12. one dozen per carton
Witch: +13. superstition, bad luck number
If the count is higher than this, in the words of the book, you should mortgage the house. Take out a loan. Get it all on the table.....
Ring: +14. fourteen carat
Paycheck: +15: the day on which you get paid
Sweet: +16: sweet sixteen
Magazine: +17: the name of a teen magazine (and 16 was already taken)
Voting booth: +18: the age you can vote
The Big Player plops down a wad of cash based on whether the counting is merely ok (plus eight or 9) or fantastic (plus 16 or more) and usually goes on a winning streak, since there are mostly high cards left in the deck. He can't possibly be counting cards because he's new to the table.
When the deck returns to normal, The Big Player leaves. The two team members don't even acknowledge each other.

The M.I.T. blackjack team made millions doing this before they were busted by the casino security firm Griffin Investigations. (In the movie, the owner of the security company is played by Lawrence Fishburne, who does a great job. And it was refreshing to see a movie cast a talented African-American actor as the villain without casting dozens of black actors and actresses in angelic roles to act as a counterbalance. Very refreshing. Probably a milestone of some sort.)

As a devoted fan of the book, here's where they did really well in the movie.... (I work in shipping, logistics, and transportation, so I'm well-qualified to spout off opinions on these things....)

They give an explanation of all the hand signals, code words, and strategies that the players used to bust the casinos.
There are more laugh lines in the movie than in the book.
As a gambling addict who is NOT in recovery, the scenes where the players are first shown using their system and winning made my heart go into overdrive. My mouth went dry. I was there at the table. I almost looked back over my shoulder to order a bourbon and coke. When they started losing, I felt my own loser-at-the-table sensations, and started wondering how I was going to explain my failures.

The acting is good. The soundtrack is good.

The movie spends a little too much time establishing the hero's friends, mother, dead-end job, geekiness and general desperation.
In reality, the incident where strippers and Ho's have to cash in the players' chips....that was caused by the riot after the Mike Tyson/Holyfield ear biting incident, if I remember correctly. I guess that would have cost too much to re-enact.
The romantic angle in the movie is pointless.
The shopping montage, where the kids run through the casinos buying Louis Vuitton crap - that has to be a blatant product placement deal.
The movie has a Keyser Soze ending, which is probably appropriate for a Kevin Spacey movie. (A "Keyzer Soze Ending" is Roger Ebert's term for a movie that has to be re-interpreted because of new information presented to the audience in the last few minutes. This wasn't in Mezrich's book, and it doesn't quite work in "21".)
Unless you're a math genius, don't even think about trying to count cards. After the well-publicized success of the M.I.T. team, the casinos have added more decks of cards to each shoe, and they cut deep into the shoe and re-shuffle long before a counter can determine an advantage.
But it's nice to dream. Good movie.

Thursday, March 27, 2008, Vietnam Memorial, Craig A. McDaniel, has added an interactive Vietnam Wall Memorial to their site. They stitched together more than 6,300 photographs to create this searchable replica.

Footnote is a site where you can download or view larger than life historical documents without any loss of detail. If you go through the minor hassles of creating a membership, you can put your own annotations on the pictures and documents.

It's unbelieveable.

Click on the Vietnam Wall Memorial link above, and then hit the magnifying glass to zero in on a few names. Then pull back and scan from left to right. I've never been to the Wall Memorial, but this is the only thing I've seen that gives me an idea of its power. A staggering number of soldiers died over there.

Some of the annotations are heartbreaking. Someone has attached these photos to the name of Staff Sergeant Craig A. McDaniel. The little boy in the soldier's helmet grew up to be Craig. I believe the baby in the family portrait is the one who grew up to do the annotation on this site.

99% of the names have no annotations.

Let's get busy.

Adobe Photoshop Express and Picnik - Where's The Outrage?

About a month ago, I asked our Computer People about putting Photoshop on my laptop.
I wanted to put Devil Horns on Nancy Pelosi pictures, Halos on John McCain, all the usual blogger stuff.
Plus, one of my motivations for doing this site was to force myself into staying somewhat computer literate in my march to senility.
One of my employees has a Computer Gaming website that gets around 2,000 hits a day. Anything he can do, I can do. Just slower. And later.

So when I asked the I.T. guys for Photoshop, they asked me for $400.

With a daughter about to enter A&M, I can't even think about paying $400 for a Photoshop licence.

I didn't think any more about Horns and Halos until I saw an internet blurb about an online service called Picnik. Picnik will let you crop, resize, recolor, spin, rotate, and vandalize your photos just like Photoshop. It's not very good with Hillary Horns and McCain Halos, but it was good enough for my purposes. And it was free. You can pay more for Picnik upgrades, but the things I need are free. Free.

A couple of weeks later, I'm on Terry White's Tech Blog, and he has a post about Photoshop Express. (Terry White's Tech Blog is one of the best sources for people trying to stay computer literate in their march to senility. He breaks everything down step by step.)

Photoshop Express, the training wheels version of Photoshop, is also free. Free. Here's the link.
Various online sources say that they still have a lot of kinks to work out of it - you can't do Horns and Halos yet - but it's getting there. Photoshop had to do something like this to compete with Picnik and other low cost, no cost software.

So where's the outrage, people? Why am I not reading furious editorials about what the unfettered Free Market is doing to the Photoshopping Industry? (Yeah, "to photoshop" is now a verb....)

Where are the calls for Photoshop subsidies that will help Photoshop defend itself from the predatory practices of Picnik? Shouldn't Picnik have had to pay a $400 tariff to bring the price of their service up to that of Photoshop?

We're in a race to the bottom. If this downward spiral continues, I'll be doing Horns and Halos within 6 months. Free. It will be horrible. If someone doesn't intervene, our Great American Photoshopping way of life will be....available to everybody.

Sigh..... The Free Market Economy is so destructive. The government should step in and regulate this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walocaust Denial

A computer store owner in Georgia is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame because of his Walocaust and Wal-Qaeda websites.

Charles Smith, the computer store owner, has also designed some satirical bumperstickers and shirts. Wal-Mart sued him for trademark infringement.

Wal-Mart lost. For several reasons. Here's The Machinist from

"The fact that the real Wal-Mart name and marks are strong and recognizable makes it unlikely that a parody -- particularly one that calls to mind the genocide of millions of people, another that evokes the name of a notorious terrorist organization ... will be confused with Wal-Mart's real products," wrote U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr.

The second reason:

As the AP points out, the judge also noted that very few people were even interested in Smith's charming work: He has only sold 62 T-shirts, 15 of them to Wal-Mart's law firms.

They aren't that funny.
What was Charles Smith's motivation in comparing a wildly popular retail chain to the second-worst atrocity in the twentieth century? Here's The Machinist again:

By the way, I bet you're interested in Smith's justification for appropriating Holocaust imagery for his anti-corporate tirade. On, he writes, "I worry that by even implying that anything could compare to the horror of the Holocaust, the worst tragedy in history, I cheapen the term." But then Smith saw a report "on the TV about how many goods Wal-Mart was importing from China and how many jobs this cost America."

Before I ask the big question, I have to issue a full disclosure....I work for a Wal-Mart supplier.

(Insert audible gasp here....)

We also supply Kroger's, Albertson's, Winn-Dixie, Publix, HEB, Giant Eagle, Joe Bob's Choke'n'Puke, and some places you've never heard of in Mexico and Canada. Australia. The Dominican Republic. Italy. Germany. The World.

We ship to all these places because we are 1) smart, 2) damn good, and 3) we're usually fast.

That's our competitive advantage.

China ships products to a lot of places because they have 1) time, 2) time, and 3) time.

They have lots and lots of people with oodles and boodles of time. Time is so plentiful there that it's cheap. That's their competitive advantage.

That's why Wal-Mart purchases a lot of things from China. We do too. And my employer has doubled its number of U.S. employees since we began sourcing some repetitive parts from China. Doing that was yet another competitive advantage for us.

You benefit from competitive advantages every day. How much more would you be willing to pay for a cell phone that was 100% manufactured in your hometown? Home state? Nation? How about a home-grown iPod?

Locavores, would you be willing to pay twice as much for regional gasoline?

Yes, I admit it. It's not rosy for everyone. When you're the displaced worker, it hurts. Bad. Some people never recover from getting Globalized. But the pluses, in my opinion, far outweigh the minuses. One of the pluses is the computer you're using to read this. You can afford it because it was made by people whose only competitive advantage is....time. Their time isn't worth as much as yours and mine. (Gross Generalization: if you're reading this in English, your time is worth more than that of an Asian assembly line worker.)

Charles Smith, the computer store owner from Conyers, Georgia, apparently dislikes Wal-Mart enough to devote two websites to Wal-Mart's downfall.

His stated reason: Wal-Mart imports products from China.

Can someone in Conyers, Georgia, visit this guy's store and let me know where his computers were made?

I'm just curious.....I bet it's someplace a long way from Conyers, Georgia.

Where Anyone Can Be President !

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary Clinton, Bosnia, Serbia, Sniper Fire, My Friend Igor, Taking Your Daughter To War Zones, and other stuff like that

This has gone on for too long.
We don't need Hillary answering the phone at 3:00 a.m.
Everyone is exhausted with this. She is now so programmed that she can't remember what is truth, what is spin, and what's an outright lie.
My friend Igor (who will be a factor in some of my next China stories on this site) came into our morning production meeting laughing about Hillary claiming to be under sniper attack when she landed in Bosnia. Igor was just a few miles away from the Tuzla airport when Hillary landed with Chelsea, Sinbad the comedian, and some singers.
It seemed like a safe place to Igor.
This wasn't a one-time time lapse due to recent exhaustion. The videos below show her repeating this mess over and over for months.

In the novel "Gulliver's Travels", Jonathan Swift creates a world where politicians are given influence based on their ability to Jump Through Hoops (hence the phrase).
Hillary can't jump through them any more. They've been set too high. She can't remember what happened and what didn't.

Obama was recently presented one of the worst hoops imaginable with the Jeremiah Wright controversy. He got a running start, hit the ramp backwards just to show off, and went through the hoop with a triple-reverse backflip. And nailed the landing.

It's over.

Christopher Hitchens covered most of this territory almost 10 years ago in "No One Left To Lie To: The Values of The Worst Family".
The Clintons are going to risk destroying their party in the belief that Superdelegates will come over to their side at the convention. It ain't gonna happen. As of today, it ain't gonna happen.
She needs to drop out. Now.
She wasn't Co-President.
She wasn't Secretary of State. She played the same role as Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan, but without the alcohol or the astrologers.
She was not a resident of New York. She had no qualifications to represent New York in the Senate, as opposed to, say, South Dakota. She was elected as a carpetbagger, running for a "safe" seat.
She tried to socialize healthcare when Bill was President.
Despite having never engaged in cattle trading before, she somehow managed to pick the two best times to trade. She bought cattle contracts at the absolute lowest price, and sold them at the absolute highest price. After generating this hundred-fold profit, she quite cattle trading forever. If I EVER had luck like that at a Blackjack table, you couldn't pry me away with 20 mules and a chain hoist. (The more likely explanation being, in my opinion, that her money and a larger amount of donor money was poured into a common "pit". Futures prices vary wildly. At the end of a day's trading, paperwork was generated to show Clinton put money in the pit when prices were low. Other paper was generated saying she sold when prices were high. Donor paperwork showed the exact opposite.)

Democrats of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but an election.
Enjoy the videos.

Anarchic Hand Syndrome

I don't know a thing about Anarchic Hand Syndrome.

I don't even know if it's for real. I was looking around on the Google Trends site, and saw it listed as a hot topic.

Apparently, AHS is a huge inconvenience for anyone who has experienced surgery that separates the two brain hemispheres. After one of these surgeries, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

Some people have called it "The Dr. Strangelove Syndrome".

I predict that middle schoolers will soon be using the phrase.

"Jason, why did you hit your sister?"

"I don't know.....Anarchic Hand Syndrome?"

I do know that Anarchic Hand Syndrome is a great metaphor for some of our problems.

For instance.....

We're spending millions subsidizing tobacco farmers and tobacco production.
We're spending millions encouraging people to stop smoking.

The right hand opposes the left hand.

Bill Clinton gave us a great economy for 8 years, due to his support of Free Trade, NAFTA, etc.
His wife, Bruno, is apparently willing to chunk all of that out the window in exchange for votes in Michigan and Ohio.

He builds it up, she's advocates tearing it down. Anarchic Hand Syndrome.

I was in a Family Pathfinders meeting last night (see previous post). This is a government program that tries to help families break the poverty cycle through training, mentoring, etc etc.
The family that my group is trying to help has several financial penalties to overcome. Almost all of these penalties were put in place by....government.

Ladies, Gentlemen, welcome to the world of AHS.

This election cycle will be partially defined by the high cost of health care. Various government agencies will Spend Like SpitzerTM to study the problem.
On the other hand, the government will also spend a smaller amount of money regulating health care, putting up barriers to entry, restricting the roles of nurses, and allowing the medical schools to produce an artificially low number of M.D.'s each year.

We're going to spend an insane amount of money on a fence to keep desperate Mexicans from entering the U.S. illegally.
We wouldn't dream of helping Mexico fix what's wrong in Mexico, which would probably be cheaper than the dang fence.

I'm sure there are better examples. I'll add them as I stumble over them. But from now on, Dear Whited Sepulchre readers, any time I refer to "Anarchic Hand Syndrome", there will be a link to this post.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Can The Whos Hear Horton?

I'm a member of a group that tries to help low income families break the poverty cycle. We're doing this through an organization called Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County.

The idea is that certain destructive, goofy habits are passed from generation to generation, and the parents (and their kids) never learn how to live within a budget, apply for a job, pay speeding tickets promptly, or show up for work on time. Maybe, just maybe, they can learn more through mentors than through perpetual handouts and giveaways.

We've had a rough month with our little family. That's all I'm going to say about it.

So last weekend, we said to heck with trying to break the cycle of poverty and irresponsibility. Let's take the little girls in the family to the movies. We saw "Horton Hears A Who".

It's a great Easter movie.

I'm sure there are many who will need elaboration on that concept....Here goes:

For those who didn't grow up with the Dr. Seuss book, Horton is an elephant who generally minds his own business. One day Horton hears some noise coming from a tiny speck of dust. He discovers that the speck is an entire planet, inhabited by little critters called Whos. He catches the speck on a pink dandelion and does everything he can to keep the Whos from getting hurt.

Through a series of megaphones and ear trumpets, Horton communicates with the mayor of Whoville, and the mayor eventually learns to communicate with Horton. Only Horton can hear the mayor and vice-versa.

Ok, how many of you believe that our universe is a speck resting on a dandelion carried about by an elephant?

Well, try to disprove it.

How much respect do we give to those who claim to clearly hear the voice of Horton? (People like Osama Bin Laden, Benny Hinn, and the mother who drowned her kids in the bathtub?)

We don't give them much respect, but proving them wrong is difficult.

But most of us take comfort in knowing that there is someone huge and big and powerful out there who is watching over us.

Others (Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins) claim that there is no Horton. They've never heard Horton speak and they've never seen any other displays of his abilities. After all, if a giant elephant wanted us to know about himself, he would make himself known, right?

Over the millenia we've developed ceremonies and rituals to make Horton happy, views that have differed wildly from time to time and place to place. Our worst wars, atrocities, and political disagreements often have these ceremonial differences as a root cause. Some people believe that the world will end in a nuclear explosion brought about by differing opinions on how to please Horton. There's a comforting thought.

When Whoville seemed so big - before airline travel, the internet, and easy immigration - it was easier to ignore those who had "false" views of Horton. But differing views of The Giant Elephant are now crashing into each other with alarming regularity.

Some of us who believe in The Giant Elephant theory admit that he doesn't intervene in our affairs very often. We think The Elephant finally deposited our little dust speck of a planet "high atop Mount Nool", as the story goes, and apparently went on about his business. He might be busy with other dust speck planets, or he might have decided to let us have our way with things. I find myself agreeing with this group a lot of the time.

But this morning, I'm going to put on some better than average clothes, including socks, and drive to a building dedicated to Horton. I'm going to participate in some ceremonies and rituals that I think will please Horton. (Yes, I really do believe this.) In my case, it's usually nothing more than looking to the sky and joining the other Whos in saying "We Are Here ! ! We Are Here ! ! We Are Here ! !". Yes, I can look to the sky and say "I Am Here" all by myself, should I choose to do so. But there's strength in numbers.

I'll join with friends of mine who believe that Horton was bound, caged, and tormented to keep us Whos from being dropped in boiling Beezle-Nut Juice. (See the movie or read the book. Dr. Seuss, or the Gospel of Luke. It's the same story.)

Horton gave The Whos a picture of what he wants them to be like, how he wants them to act. I don't think Horton cares a whit whether the priest, Iman, rabbi, or preacher faces the altar during mass, speaks Latin, faces Mecca, eats pork, drinks beer, dances, or turns the wine into blood. If there really is A Giant Elephant, I don't think he gets worked up over Protestant vs. Catholic, Jew vs. Muslim, Southern Baptist vs. Moderate Baptist, Guitar vs. Pipe Organ, or whether we do the above on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Horton wants us to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of everyone else in Whoville. That's the picture that Dr. Seuss gave us in his book. I think that's the picture God gave us 2,000 years ago.

Can it really be that simple? I'm starting to think so. Sometimes it's as simple as blowing $30 bucks to take three little girls to the movies.

Happy Easter, from the east side of Whoville.