December 02, 2006

An Invoice for Nasrallah

Via Capisho blog.

The western press is reporting on the Hizbollah demonstrations with a distanced air of "unbiased neutrality." Who knows which faction holds the moral high ground? The western-style Sunni/Christian/Druze coalition or the Iranian-backed Shiite/Christian coalition? How dare we evaluate the sides or pass any judgement.

However, it is far from clear that Hizbollah deserves such treatment. Follow along with Amir Irani-Tehrani as he takes a tour of Hizbollah South Lebanon and you will see the vision that Hizbollah has for that small nation. Hizbollah runs their territory like a band of thugs and propagandists. They restrict movement, levy "taxes," and prohibit any dissent from their extreme views.

For Hizbollah, anything that goes wrong is blamed on somebody else. Nasrallah starts a war; but when his neighborhoods get destroyed, it is Sinoria's fault? The economy in his part of Lebanon is in shambles; surely that is due to imperialist oppression of some sort. And gosh, who could have ever murdered Hariri and Gemayel? But our wondering has a limit: if we start to investigate, Hizbollah will demonstrate and riot until the government comes down.

Are these the hallmarks of responsible governance? Is the Hizbollah vision what we wish for the future of the Middle East? These people are nothing more than a very well-funded mafia.

If we are happy to criticize our own politicians in the West with a cold and critical eye, why do we treat Hizbollah with such kid-fingers? Would we really consider voting Hizbollah into our own government? If not, then why do we have such low standards for the Lebanese?

The Lebanese blogging world is far more interesting than the mainstrem press: for example, Raja brings an interesting perspective on how while Lebanon has little to worry about from the protests, other Arab powers are going nuts about it.

Posted by David at 05:25 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2006

Why Lebanon?

Haven't had time to blog, so this Lebanon blog entry has been sitting at the top of my blog for a while. Somebody asked me yesterday why I'm so interested in Lebanon.

Lebanon is interesting because it is such a strange case....

Continue reading "Why Lebanon?"
Posted by David at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2006

A Letter To Santa

Sometimes I'm sure my kids are planning something, even if I have no idea what. Here is the letter Anthony wrote to Santa this year...

Continue reading "A Letter To Santa"
Posted by David at 09:48 AM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2006

Magic Lessons

Anthony is reading a book at the breakfast table this morning called "Magic Tricks." Here is why every kid should learn some magic.

Me: "Are you learning how to do magic tricks?"

Anthony: "Yeah."

Me: "Do they work by magic?"

Anthony: "No. They work by tricks."

Posted by David at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2006

Mortgage Tax Deduction

Who else thinks the mortgage tax deduction is a really bad idea?

I am buying a new house, and so I have been thinking about home prices, interest rates, and taxes. And as I listen to the "advice" I get from mortgage brokers, I get that slimy car-dealership feeling that everybody is trying to sell me something that I can't afford.

Several people have told me, "why not borrow money against your house to take the tax deduction? You can get a nicer house that way. And if you don't need the money, plow it into the stock market to make even more!" And it's not just the salesmen. Even conservative white-shoe investment advisors will agree that the mortgage tax deduction is a good enough tax break that we should considering borrowing against it beyond our real need for cash. (The current WSJ offers just this sort of advice.)

Does this sound nuts to you too?

Continue reading "Mortgage Tax Deduction"
Posted by David at 04:49 PM | Comments (10)

December 23, 2006

Got a Wii

Yes, we got a Wii. As you can tell from Anthony's letter to Santa, we have already broken it out and have played it before Christmas.

It is pretty great. Grandma and Grandpa and 5-year-old Piper have all played together, and half the fun is watching these young and old ones get into a batting stance to swing at a fastball. Of course 8-year-old Anthony is addicted, and my 33-year-old brother spent the whole day learning moves in Madden and trying to get his bowling score up to "pro" level. So the game has been fun for everybody.

Today the New York Times named Wii Sports game of the year, and rightly so: Wii Sports does something more than just appeal to everybody. It gets everybody to play together. And with the little personalized Mii characters that look like cartoon versions of your family members, the game is also great for spectators - when you are not playing, it is just as fun to watch and cheer, shouting out free advice, rooting for the kids.

Somehow, Wii Sports has made the leap. It is not just a video game.

It is a genuine game.

Posted by David at 10:33 PM | Comments (2)

December 28, 2006

Anthony's Fireball for the Wii

The reason I like teaching Anthony how to program computers is that it dispels the mystery behind modern gadgets. Computers are just boxes for running software, and even though the software can seem very magical, it is not. Regular people put together software one bit at a time, just like anything else.

But one of the the funny things about making things simple enough for a third grader to learn is that Anthony seems to imagine the computing world is simpler than it actually is.

A few months ago Anthony programmed a little Python game (with my help - we used curses) that involved chasing three 'x' characters around the screen. He called his game "Gethex" and he wanted to share it with all his friends. But he was mystified about one thing. "Why can't we post Gethex on the web? You know, so you can play it in a web browser?"

To Anthony, there is no difference between Age of Empires, VT-100 games, webpages, and Wii Sports... They are all programs - once you make a program, why can't you run it everywhere?

Continue reading "Anthony's Fireball for the Wii"
Posted by David at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)