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Chris Kern

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December 19th, 2011

10:47 pm: Fox News on NK

I've been seeing columns like this from right-wing sources since Obama took office, but I never really understand them. Whiton criticizes food aid and diplomacy towards North Korea, but doesn't really say what should be done other than a vague reference to "criticizing" China and "siding with the North Korean people." It's clear from the column that Whiton is not taking an isolationist viewpoint that we should just keep our hands off the whole situation, but he doesn't give any concrete ideas for what to do.

My guess is that he may not have any. Yelling at China's not going to do anything, nor is setting up Radio Free North Korea or something like that. War is basically out of the question, particularly now. But maybe these kind of people actually do want a war -- probably they realize that a war against NK, much less China, is not feasible, but they wish that it were, and so they can't bring themselves to side with a more diplomatic strategy.

So what can be done?

July 24th, 2011

11:46 am: I had noticed that the spiders outside my window had mostly disappeared; they've been a lot more erratic than last year in their appearances. At the same time, I would notice strands of spiderweb randomly around my apartment. I think you see where this is going.

Don't click if you don't like spidersCollapse )

February 25th, 2011

07:53 pm: Slacktivist is always a good read, but this is a particularly good post on Obama's dropping of the DOMA defense, and the issue in general:


He just made another post on the same issue which looks good as well.

"What's driving all of this is the conception that this is how democracy works -- that if the Christian majority does not impose its hegemonic sway over others, then those others may arise to impose their sectarian sway over Christians. They don't believe in religious freedom per se. I don't mean that they're opposed to it, but that they don't even understand the idea. They don't seem to realize even that it is an option.

When you think of democracy as whatever the majority wants -- unlimited by any guarantee or protection of the rights of minorities -- then you are in a fight to impose your will over that of others."

November 12th, 2010

11:28 pm: The big problem the Republicans have facing them is that their fickle supporters, the Tea Party, who has shown every indication that they aren't as interested in the GOP as they are in their principles, wants to lower the deficit and the debt. This will not happen unless health care and defense costs are dealt with. According to the CBO, in 2010, 61% of the tax revenue collected went to social security, medicare/medicaid/CHIP, and defense. The favorite whipping boys of the Tea Party like education and foreign aid only take a very tiny percentage of tax revenue.

The Tea Party doesn't want to see defense cut, and the GOP wouldn't cut it even if they did. Many Tea Partiers are elderly, and they won't want medicare cut. They might be OK with medicaid being cut since that's just the lazy poor, but it's unlikely that the GOP is going to try to make any huge cuts to Medicaid. Attacking Obamacare is not going to fix the cost of health care. The elderly Tea Partiers also aren't going to want to see social security messed with. They also don't want to see taxes rise.

It sometimes works to run on voter ignorance, especially when it comes to areas that are more opinion or morality based. But you can't run on a platform of cutting deficit and debt while saying at the same time that you're not going to raise taxes, cut defense, or cut any programs that benefit the retired and elderly. And if 2012 comes around and nothing is done about the deficit or debt, the Tea Party may fracture the Republican party more than it already has. You can count on your stable base or your "issues voters" to follow you no matter what, but the Tea Party definitely gave the impression of following the GOP for now because it was the better of two bad options.

I agree with the basic idea that the financial state of the US is troubling, and that we do need to fix the deficit and debt problems, but just attacking Democratic policies isn't going to do that.

October 17th, 2010

03:41 pm: I took a look at that "100 top books" list from the BBC everyone's posting, and I was actually surprised by how many of them I had read:

boringCollapse )

If I count Sherlock and Shakespeare as 1/2 each, that's 42 out of the 100.

June 18th, 2010

05:44 pm: Writing retrospective part 2
I know the next story I wrote was called Users are Losers and involved drug dealers, but I don't have that story anymore. I know it introduced a new villain "Patch", who was a ninja with an eyepatch. Patch was intended to be a recurring villain along the lines of Blofeld (from James Bond), and I imagine that the ninja idea must have come from You Only Live Twice.

The cast also grows to add another real life friend, Marcos, who is a sniper in the stories. The main self-insertion character also gets a machine gun called "shooter". I know that this is based on a game we used to play called "guns" where we would each take a plastic gun, and then the object was to run around and sneak up on people and say "bang" or "got you" before they see you, and the first to 10 points won. This was a lot of fun and there were surprisingly few arguments about who shot first. Anyway, the gun I always used was a plastic machine gun of some sort -- I don't remember whether it actually said "shooter" on it or whether I made that name up.

Anyway, the only other story I have in this continuity is called "Patch" -- "part 1" is written under that in a different pen; I don't know whether I added that later (but I know I never wrote part 2). Since the stories get longer now I won't type up the whole thing anymore, I'll just summarize it and then type a few key passages.

Once again I have only a vague idea of when this was written, but it probably wasn't too long after the previous story I posted.

PatchCollapse )

This is a lot of fun; re-reading these stories reminds me of things about my childhood that I had sort of forgotten about. Next up, the next continuity, starring "Heatwave".

June 16th, 2010

11:31 pm: Writing retrospective part 1
Inspired by some discussions with friends over the weekend, I decided to start doing something I've considered doing for a while -- basically a history of my own (fiction) writing. What better place than LJ to do such an egotistical project. :) I know at least 1 person is interested in seeing this so sorry to everyone else.

Due to my pack rat nature I still have a lot of the stories I wrote as a kid; they're somewhat embarrassing to look at now, but funny all the same. I'm planning on describing what I was writing and include either summaries or full texts of the stories I still have. Unfortunately hardly any of the stories have dates on them so I have to go entirely by my own memory, which may be wrong in some cases.

Anyway, the first set of stories I ever wrote were "FBI stories". As a kid I loved the James Bond movies, and a friend of mine who wanted to join the FBI when he grew up was writing some stories -- I don't remember anything about them or whether I even read a full one, but I guess I was inspired by them to write my own stories. They were "FBI stories" because at the age of 8, I thought that if you wanted to write a James Bond story set in the US, the FBI was the closest equivalent. Of course I had no idea what the FBI actually did or anything about it, but that's beside the point.

There are three basic "phases" to these -- the first ones star myself (because my friend put himself as the star of his stories), the second ones have a non-self insertion character called "Heatwave", and there's a third set of stories that once again star myself, but in a different continuity.

Most of them are really awful. I can tell from reading them now that I had a pretty good idea of what kind of action sequences I wanted to include but I wasn't really able to come up with good plots surrounding them other than just "evil person wants to do random evil things" -- there are all kinds of silly elements and impossible plots.

Here is the first story I ever wrote, which I amazingly still have. I'm not sure exactly when I wrote it, but I was probably 8 or 9.

E.r.v.i.n.c Inc.Collapse )

I don't remember how many other stories are in this first phase; I only have one other story and I know that I wrote another one that's now lost, but it's possible there are others.

May 3rd, 2010

12:07 am: I pulled out the printouts of my unfinished fantasy novel and read through some of them. Most of it is unrevised drafts so there are a lot of imperfections and bad parts, but there are also some very well written (at least in my opinion) sections, and some that I find moving. I had made it up to around 250 pages, which was somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the whole story.

Unfortunately it's been a few years since I've done any real concentrated work on it. I haven't stopped thinking about it and I've worked out a number of the plot problems and also some significant changes to the background of the story, but somehow I can't get the motivation to actually write the story itself -- it's definitely not a problem of free time. I'm not quite sure what to do with it. Every so often I wonder about posting it in installments to a blog or something like that, in the hopes that that might increase my motivation to work on it, but I wonder whether it's possible to garner any interest like that or where you would even find readers. Serialized fiction seems like something that should be a natural fit for blogs, but I don't know of any organized structure of the kind that webcomics have.

There is one significant problem in the plot that has been problematic since the story was still in outline form back in 2001 or earlier, but I can write at least half the story without worrying about that. The names are another problem; my naming has always been haphazard and there are some names in the story that I really like, others I really hate. They lack consistency because I never really had a language in mind (the way Tolkien did, for instance). I now have enough linguistic background that I feel like it should be in my power to at least sketch the outline of a language enough to create consistent names, but that's more work that I don't have the motivation for.

I really do want to finish this someday because it's been a long time since I started it; the seeds of the story (which are barely recognizable now) go back as far as 1996, and the first writing that I actually consider to be part of the novel was done in 2003.

July 5th, 2009

03:51 pm: It's been a while since I've updated. I'm teaching this summer as a lecturer -- 2 classes a day, kind of a heavy load, but the money is good. After that I'll be in my 5th year of grad school; the plan is to get a grant to study in Japan in 2010. This year I'll be finishing my course work and taking my candidacy exam; I also have to make firm plans for a dissertation topic. At this point it looks like I'll be doing it on the 湖月抄 (kogetsusho), which is a 17th century commentary on the Tale of Genji; it was the first commentary to be printed alongside the text and was the most widely read edition of Genji until very recently. There hasn't been anything written in English on it yet.

I'm also moving at the end of the summer; I like the place I live now but the price next year would be $850 a month plus parking and electricity, which is too expensive for me, especially for a studio. I already know where I'm going; the cost there will be $780 total (with all utilities and including HD cable and internet), and the apartment will be about twice the size of what I have now. It's also right next to a Giant Eagle and two asian grocery stores, and it's right by a bus stop that goes to campus, so it should work well. 5 other people from my department live there so it's quite popular.

I've been watching The Wire, which is a good show -- I only watched season 1 so far but I think I like it better than The Sopranos. It moves slowly, but I think the payoff is worth it.

February 21st, 2009

10:07 pm: This is a hilarious (and kind of gross, kind of delicious) site:
(I would not recommend this for people grossed out by meat)

I think my favorites so far are:
- Burger made with two meat pizzas as the bun.
- "Happy meal" pizza (a pizza made with two McD's cheeseburgers, fries, and chicken nuggets as the topping)
- Bacon chocolate chip cookies
- A bacon double cheeseburger with bacon-grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun

Right now the first entry on the page is the Thurminator, a burger at the Thurman Cafe in Columbus.

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