From The Associated Press Stylebook, 2007:

engine, motor An engine develops its own power, usually through internal combustion or the pressure of air, steam or water passing over vanes attached to a wheel: an airplane engine, an automobile engine, a jet engine, a missile engine, a steam engine, a turbine engine.

A motor receives power from an outside source: an electric motor, a hydraulic motor.

It's so nice to have this cleared up. If it develops its own power, it's an engine. Otherwise, it's a motor. So your car has an engine, not a motor, unless it's an electric car, in which case it does have a motor. If it's a hybrid, it has one of each.

But what does "develops its own power" mean? An internal-combustion engine doesn't really develop its own power; it relies on fuel pumped in from outside. The same applies to anything—to get energy out, you have to put energy in. The only things that develop their own energy, with no outside help, are stars and small children.

From AP's discussion, it appears that taking in fuel, burning it, and using the resulting heat to create motion counts as developing your own power. And, somehow, so does receiving pressurized air, steam or water, but only if you pass it over "vanes attached to a wheel"—what we commonly call a turbine. Passing it through cylinders with reciprocating pistons doesn't count. So the "steam engines" used to propel locomotives and ships should be called steam motors.

And a rocket engine certainly develops its own power, in the simplest case of using internal combustion to move something—but it's apt to be called a "rocket motor," especially by rocket scientists. Someone should give those guys a clue.

As for an electric motor, it is forever denied the appellation "engine," though it seems to develop its own power quite as much as a steam turbine does. There's no big difference between using steam to turn a turbine and using electromagnetism to turn a rotor.

So AP's logic is looking shaky. Does etymology support it? No. "Engine" comes from the same root as "ingenious" -- the Latin ingenium, "inborn qualities, talent." "Motor," of course, comes directly from the Latin motor, "mover." Nothing about developing energy from within, or "vanes attached to a wheel." (Maybe AP uses this circumlocution to avoid the word "turbine" as prehistoric Northern Europeans used "brown one" to avoid their word for "bear.")

AP's distinction is simply a tangle of special pleading and whim, imposed on the language and the credulous by generations of petty self-appointed grammarians. The device that moves your car, no matter how it works, can properly be called a motor—it's a mover, isn't it? If we want to highlight its complex and ingenious design, we can call it an engine.

It's true that in common parlance electric "motors" greatly outnumber electric "engines." But that's a habit of speech; trying to prop it up with logic created after the fact just makes you look silly, as AP has demonstrated.

But General Motors and every state's Department of Motor Vehicles can heave a sigh of relief. They don't have to change their names.
Who else was surprised to see Judge Vaughan R. Walker quote Justice Antonin Scalia in his Prop. 8 decision? Scalia's no friend of same-sex marriage. Citing him in a decision like that is like citing Richard Dawkins in a sermon.

To me it looks like a legal poke in the ribs.

Near the middle of Walker's decision, he quotes Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which the Supreme Court overturned Texas's law against sodomy:

"If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is 'no legitimate state interest' for purposes of proscribing that conduct . . . what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising 'the liberty protected by the Constitution'?"

Scalia is not being agreeable here. Far from it: he is dissenting, bitterly and sarcastically. He has no problem with homosexuals, he says, but he also has no problem with laws against consensual acts, even in private, on the basis of "moral disapprobation." In dire tones -- just before the sentence Walker quotes -- he reflects on Canada's then-recent legalization of same-sex marriage and says, "Today's decision dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned."

Back in 2003, Walker could not have known he would preside over the challenge to Prop. 8, so I'm sure he didn't read that and think, "Yes, it does!" But in writing his decision in the Prop. 8 case, he may have been delighted to find a virtual road map to the legalization of same-sex marriage laid out for him by one of its opponents; and he must have allowed himself at least a chuckle when he quoted Scalia's rhetorical question. He was seizing one of the enemy's guns and turning it against him.
I'm getting interested in playing the bass -- preferably the upright bass viol, but after checking out the prices of those I'm more willing to accept an acoustic bass guitar, which I'd sound better on anyway.

So if anyone is aware of an upright bass or an acoustic bass guitar that's just moldering away somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, please let me know. I can't pay much of anything for it, having had some alarmingly large expenses lately (and larger ones are waiting their turn), but I'd love to give one a happy home, if only for a while.
Less than two weeks from now, I'll be bedding down in King City, in a 3000-person tent village, after riding my bike about 200 miles in two days. There will be about 350 miles and five days to go.

Right now, I'm about $1400 away from my goal of $5000.

If you'd like to help prevent, diagnose, and treat HIV infections in California, the U.S., and the world, go to Thanks to those of you here who have already sponsored me.
If you want people to think you may be at least sentient, put measure numbers at the beginning of every line, not every ten measures. They're like street signs: they should be not just easy to find, but idiotically easy to find. Putting them in every ten bars is like having street signs every 500 feet, no matter where the corners are.
It's still April 30 where I live, so this isn't late yet!
"Java has evolved from a groundbreaking, revolutionary language platform to something closer to a modern-day version of Cobol."

--Neil McAllister, in "Geriatric Java Struggles to Stay Relevant"
Turns out the Health Care Law pf 2010 is the third 9-11 attack. Behind it: the Masons and the Illuminati. Also in the mix: the Georgia Guidestones, an ancient city on Mars, complete with UFOs, and Hitler's anti-gravity technology.

All at -- scroll down to "For those who do not pay any attention to numbers...."
Reading Jon Carroll's column on Erick Ericksen got me wondering about the apparent difference in flavors of hyperbole indulged in by political extremists. Right-wing nuts like Ericksen seem to favor accusations of sexual perversion or at least immorality; accusations of gender variance (male leftists are described as emasculated or effeminate, females as mannish and castrating); threats of violence, often with guns; accusations of laziness; etc. Left-wing nuts seem to have a tamer vocabulary: shadowy conspiracies of the powerful; accusations of greed and lack of compassion; accusations of hypocrisy. The only times a leftist brings up sexual immorality are when hypocrisy is involved, e.g. the Catholic church's pederastic priests or numerous "family values" Republicans caught with their pants down.

First of all, is this difference real, or just a stereotype in itself? Second: if it is real, why does it exist? What is it about the conservative mind-set that inspires someone to accuse David Souter of bestiality and pederasty? I mean, a lot of us leftists are less than fond certain Justices, but I for one would not, even in private, go farther than questioning the legitimacy of their births in a common figure of speech. Even when we get hyperbolic -- I often compared Bush and Cheney's administration to the Third Reich -- the enormities we accuse our opponents of are usually political, not pornographic. I'm not claiming that we're more virtuous for that; I'm wondering what inner narratives make people of all kinds choose the kind of mud they sling.

Some political science student, probably more than one, has no doubt done the legwork and written this all up. I'd love to see it.
Nearly 75 miles -- 65 on the actual Grizzly Peak Cyclists' Alex's Second Saturday Ride, 9.5 getting there and back. With hills. Pig Farm Hill, Reliez Valley Road, Norris Canyon, Redwood Road, South Pinehurst Road. And I was "leading" a group who were all faster than I am, so the pace was a bit quicker than the last two -- 13.3 mph average towards the end, 14.4 towards the beginning.

Is this a party or a mitzvah? Well, both, maybe. It was splendid riding today, perfectly clear, cold but seasonable, and the new grass and croaking frogs and daffodils by the roadside. Still, if I'd been going out just for fun I'd have done half the distance (and missed the daffodils). After 50 miles, riding becomes mostly managing things: monitoring the leg muscles, shaking out a hand gone numb, shifting gears, plotting lines through turns on descents, calling out hazards, keeping one's spirits up.

The last of those is most important. As Yogi Berra said, "Ninety percent of this game is half mental." The main obstacle on a hill is not the climb, it's your own mind and its tendency to freak out. Keep that under control, remember that you CAN do it, and you can do it. Maybe not as fast or as many times as that hotshot zipping by you on a single-speed, but you can do it.

Oh, and noticing the daffodils. That's important too.
I've been wanting to write about my memorial ribbons. They are currently 24 ribbons in eight colors arranged in rainbow order on a short length of cord so they can easily hang from the back of my cycling helmet. The original idea, back in 2003, was to fasten them to a fiberglass mast to make a ribbon rainbow flag and mount the whole thing on the back of my bicycle, but that turned out to be cumbersome and dangerous. So now they hang from my helmet and, when the wind is right, stream prettily.

Each ribbon is inscribed with the name of someone lost to AIDS. Because they're given to me by people I know, and I live on the west coast of North America, they all happen to be the names of white males. Most of them died between the ages of 20 and 50. One died while still a child; he got HIV from a blood transfusion. The rest, I believe, caught it in the stereotypical way, by being gay and careless in the first decade or two after Stonewall.

Two of them are people I knew. Ted Flath was the director of the California Bach Society when I first started singing with it, back in 1979. He was a brilliant, difficult, passionate choral conductor, and he doesn't need me to polish his reputation. Singing the German Requiem and the St. Matthew Passion under his baton were near-religious experiences.

E "Lew S" Carroll was a smaller fish, but no less colorful. He was on the administrative staff at the UC Extension San Francisco Center, not far from the Castro. As what they called a "program assistant," he did the grunt work of producing classes in Letters & Science. There were two kinds of PAs: clerical drones who got things more than half right for a couple of years and then went on to better-paying jobs, and the ones who stayed with the program for a decade or so and got really good at it, good enough to put their own stamp on it. E was that kind. He was the type specimen for "If you're not having fun, you're not in the right job."

The rest are friends of friends -- in one case, the brother of a friend -- and I know practically nothing about them. But I want to mention three of the unknowns: Andrew, Bruce, and Roger. I wasn't given their last names, because their deaths -- or their lives, or one aspect of their lives -- must remain forever secret. Do even their families know what they died of? I don't know. I know that every effort was made to keep them closeted even in death.

That's one reason why I'm riding. Being able to do it at all is wonderful, and raising money to fight HIV and AIDS is a great thing; but on top of that is the stand we riders and roadies take against homophobia. To live in a world without AIDS would be great, but it seems to be difficult, the virus is so wily; to live in a world where anyone, living or dead, can be openly queer and not get harassed or beaten or hushed up -- damn it, that's easy, people just have to stop hating and fearing each other. We could do it right now.

So I like to get out there with a bunch of people, some as ordinary as I am, some flamingly queer, and first of all show the one or two queer kids in Lompoc or San Miguel or Guadelupe that they're not freaks, they're not alone, not everyone hates them; and second, show the local haters what idiots they're being; and third, encourage the locals who aren't haters.

It's so easy. You show people a little tolerance, a little respect, and they show it right back, usually. It's a much prettier world that way.


I didn't write this to get people to donate -- really! -- but if you want to, here's the link:
And God looked, and beheld what He had created, and it was good.

And the Lord God said, Behold, man has it too easy. The serpent will cause him to fall, and he will have to get his living by the sweat of his brow and live in labor and tribulation all his days, but that is not enough. He must really suffer.

And the Lord God summoned Satan to Him, and demanded of him how man could best be tormented. And Satan answered smiling: I will create something.

Nothing major, saith God. Touch not the kernel, lest all thy processes be killed.

Wouldn't dream of it, saith Satan. I have in mind a mere peripheral, an output device.

Go to it, saith God. Go nuts.

And Satan labored in the bowels of the earth for an hundred days, smelting and hammering and forging the most noisome, foul and recalcitrant of elements in the most recondite and fiendish designs. And when his work was complete, he saith unto God, Behold, I have created that thou asked of me.

What is it? saith God.

It is called a printer, replied Satan.

What doth it do? saith God.

It doth all that is asked of it, saith Satan, but maddeningly slow, and never quite right. When one sendeth a job to it, the job will disappear, or sit in the queue for length of days, never to be driven out, not by curses, nor imprecations, nor teams of bellowing oxen. And if the printer actually accepteth a job and printeth it, behold, its nozzles will clog, its ink will run out, its paper will go in crooked and come out wrinkled like a palm frond, if indeed it cometh out at all. When man beholdeth his work on the screen, he will say, Lo, it is as fair as gold; but when he beholdeth what cometh from the printer he will say, it is the work of Satan.

The man will simply destroy it in his wrath, saith God.

Chip off the old block, saith Satan.

Watch thyself, saith God.

Fear not, saith Satan, for man will not destroy the printer, nay, he will cherish it and cater to its every whim. And every now and then it will produce a perfect page. And man, in his pride and folly, will think he has finally figured out the driver, the ink, the paper, and all else, and again set to work rejoicing. And then the printer will resume its old tricks, and he will curse and rend his garments, saying, Woe that ever I was born.

And the Lord God did try out the printer, and it did even as Satan said. Lo, saith the Lord God, this thing is diabolical; it is a parcel of dung, of mighty odor. And He was moved to smite the printer with fire and brimstone, but He did catch himself, saying, Satan has worked a wonder; I will leave it to afflict man for all his days.

And thenceforth when God needed a printout, He wrote with fire on tablets of stone, because it was easier than getting anything decent from the printer.
There are three reasons I do this ride:

One, to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS. This is the primary fundraiser for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. It's raised $60 million since its inception. Money goes to prevention, testing, and patient support in California, Africa, and Asia.

Two, to swell the ranks of a group advocating and demonstrating tolerance and respect for people who are not like everyone else. Here in the Bay Area we tend to forget what it's like to be a gay teenager in San Miguel. If you've ever met someone who had the same angst as you did about something you were afraid to talk about, or someone who just let you know it was okay to feel as you did, that you were not alone, you know what I'm talking about.

Three, for the joy of community, the accomplishment of raising the money, and the feeling of mastery I have when riding. I'm no Lance Armstrong, but the gods gave me endurance; give me a day and I can ride 100 miles; give me a week and some support and I can ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I can even help a few other riders along with "geezer draft" -- the ones who didn't pass me hours ago, that is.

The third one is my reward. The second is my contribution; the first is yours. Here's the link:

Whether you contribute or not, if you have a name you'd like to add to the bunch of memorial ribbons I tie to my helmet, let me know.
Story here.

I was particularly amused by "An Iranian official said the measure was meant to boost local development of Internet technology and to build trust between people and the government...."

It'll boost local development of internet technology, all right. I wish I could invest in all the government-blockade-running techniques this will inspire.

As for building trust between the people and the government this way -- good luck with that.
It never fails: Some brown or black guy is apprehended and charged with terrorism, and a week later conservative pundits and politicians are upset because the cops didn't go all Jack Bauer on him. They read him his Miranda rights, the wimps! He should have been tortured waterboarded aggressively interrogated!

Don't they understand that what the government can do to anyone, it can do to anyone -- including them? They can't be that stupid. You don't have to be any smarter than Larry Flynt to figure that one out.

Maybe what they know is that while it's theoretically true that one law applies to everyone, it doesn't really apply to them, because they're not brown or black -- or if they are, they've got the middle- or upper-class credentials to overcome that disadvantage.

But that would be so hypocritical, so contemptible. I would rather think they were just stupid.
We all know that our American telephone companies turned over our call records to the FBI, and that Congress has made them immune to lawsuits over it. What's surprising is how little it took to persuade the phone companies to share their records. Subpoenas? Court orders? Warrants? Bah. Post-It notes and phone calls were enough. The phone companies even put employees in FBI offices to help with the paperwork (when anyone bothered with paperwork).

We may as well let the government "host" our call records. It'd save time. And paper.

Via slashdot; details at
"[S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so the Devil said 'OK, it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

--Pat Robertson, speaking while people were still trapped in the rubble of Port-au-Prince.

Four out of five of those people were probably Christians, if that makes a difference; most of those Christians were probably Catholics, so maybe it doesn't, at least not to Robertson.

"Napoleon III and whatever." The Haitian Revolution began in 1791 and ended in 1804. Napoleon III was born in 1808.

By "deal with the devil" Robertson probably means the vodou ceremony on August 14, 1791, when Dutty Boukman gave the signal to begin. But if that was a deal, it was a raw one: victory came more than twelve years later and cost tens of thousands of Haitian lives.

But for Robertson and his ilk these details mean nothing. They can blather any crap that promotes their agenda and call it a "true story."

If there's ever a monument built to stupidity, Robertson's face should be on it.

To send aid to Haiti, I suggest Direct Relief International,
This courtroom exchange reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's the condensed version:

Expert Witness: I've researched child development for 40 years. I once ran a section of the National Institutes of Health, and I'm now chairman of the department of social and developmental psychology at Cambridge University in England.

"Protect Marriage" Lawyer: And what does the research show?

Expert Witness: It shows that gays and lesbians are just as good parents as heterosexuals. There's no evidence that they're prone to gender confusion or likely to abuse their children or raise their daughters to be lesbians. There are only two differences between kids raised by same-sex parents and other kids: they're more likely to be bullied by their peers, and less likely to have stereotyped attitudes about gender.

"Protect Marriage" Lawyer: Research says all that?

Expert Witness: Yes.

"Protect Marriage" Lawyer: Well--you're a member of the ACLU and the National Organization for Women, aren't you?

Expert Witness: Uh--yes, but I don't see--

"Protect Marriage" Lawyer: And you've donated money to PBS, haven't you?

Expert Witness: Yes.

"Protect Marriage" Lawyer: Ha! Thus I refute this testimony, Your Honor. This "expert" is a committed liberal. Nothing he says should be taken seriously. History is littered with scientific theories universally accepted and proven to be wrong.

(End of Act I. In Act II, PML is confronted with some scientific theories that were proven wrong, like the geocentric universe, creation in six days, and four-footed insects.)
It seems the guy who walked into a CIA base in Afghanistan and blew himself up last week, taking seven US intelligence officers and contractors with him, was held prisoner by the Jordanian government for a while. He was working with Al Qaeda then, but after a bit of what some call "aggressive interrogation techniques" he agreed to work with the Jordanian intelligence agency.

So what did our "double agent" do then? After turning over enough information to make himself credible, he told his handler he had something really big that he wanted to share with the Americans. And that's how he was able to resume his work for Al Qaeda and go out with a bang.

I can just picture Dick Cheney wondering now: What kind of people are these? You beat a promise out of them and then they go back on it! Back here in the real world, where people manage to think rationally now and then, one might observe what's wrong with torture:

Not only is it morally repugnant, corrupting those who practice it; not only does it provide a ready excuse for the enemy to mistreat your people when captured; it's ineffective. A tortured subject will tell you the whereabouts of his commander, his wife, the man in the moon, and Santa Claus. He may even agree to work as a double agent--for as long as it takes him to prepare a blow that will more than even the score.

Other than that, of course, there's nothing wrong with it.
If pain is just weakness leaving the body, maybe confusion and frustration are just ignorance leaving the mind.
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