Monthly Archives: July 2006

Fifty boxes

Goodness. I’ve packed 50 boxes. Most of them are book boxes (1.5 c.f.) but there are a half dozen or so each of banker’s and case-of-copier-paper boxes. The book boxes average about 52 lbs. each, so I’ve got just about one ton of book boxes. The banker’s boxes and paper cases are a little lighter. My back hurts.

Seminarians for (using) bike helmets

The apartment where we live (for a few more weeks) is located on a corner. We see a lot of people go by on their way to the pool or to the childcare center. Some of them are kids on bikes. And with the exception of one (1) family, it seems as if none of the kids wear helmets. There’s nothing more common than to see a family unit walk by in the morning or afternoon on their way to or from day-care, with the kids on some kind of bike, the parents walking alongside, and the kid not wearing a helmet.

This strikes me as falling into the same category as making a pit for the neighbor’s ox to fall into, or watching an enemy’s donkey wander away.

So I wish that these people would make their kids wear helmets, or not ride bikes. And so does the state of New Jersey. As the saying goes, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

I’m not sure whether it should be a law. As a citizen of the republic, I tend libertarian (lowercase ‘l’) in my politics, so I would probably favor elimination of the law. I’d prefer the legislature to make more general laws — “no endangering your minor children” — and then executive-branch agencies and the courts could figure out in specific cases whether not wearing a bike helmet was child endangerment, juvenile delinquincy, or what. That way the legislature wouldn’t have to write and keep continually up-to-date a raft of laws defining all the different ways kids could be endangered. (The bike helmet law would have to follow the trends as people’s interest moved between mopeds, Segways, razor scooters, skateboards, roller blades, unicycles, and so forth.)

But the point is that it is a law, here, and these people are scofflaws.

They are not protesting it as an unjust law. They aren’t sending overtures to General Assembly feebly trying to pressure state legislatures into overturning a bad law. No. They’re simply ignoring the law, because it’s inconvenient to them.

Now put aside for a moment that bike helmets make sense. Put aside the responsibilities that a parent has not only as a citizen but also as a Christian, for the nurture of their children. Put aside even the Christian ethical matter of obedience to the civil magistracy. (We’re not talking about bad laws here. A parent letting their kid crack their head open isn’t Dietrich Bonhoeffer.)

What galls me is that from my interactions with neighbors, from a quick survey of the number of cars that (still!) have “Kerry-Edwards” or “God is not a Republican” bumper stickers, and from the prevalence of hyphenated last names, it’s clear that the seminary’s married student housing trends more blue than red. So it’s likely they will continue to vote for more dumb laws and the politicians who propose them. Even the evidence from their own lives, they will not or cannot learn that some good ideas don’t make good laws.

“Bring my shuttle…”

In the original version of the movie (the movie) The Empire Strikes Back, toward the end, Darth Vader offers a bargain of sorts to Luke. Luke declines, then falls off a platform, apparently to his doom. Soon after that, there’s a shot of Darth Vader striding along surrounded by some of the Imperial garrison he’s stationed on Bespin. He says,

Bring my shuttle.

The scene is only about 15 or 20 seconds long, but it’s a nice little moment. It leverages the inscrutable mask and the voice-over talents of James Earl Jones to leave you wondering just how Luke’s decision has affected Vader.

In the DVD box set that came out in the fall of 2004, there are many improvements and a number of bad decisions. Of the later, the most controversial is having Greedo shoot first, but the worst is probably the alteration of the musical number in Jabba’s throne-room from Return of the Jedi. It was bad before, but now it’s simply awful.

But. Bad as that is, it’s understandable. The old music was limited by the puppets’ acting ability but also by the evolution of musical tastes. You can see why Lucas (or someone whose opinions he values) decided to replace the puppets with CG and the music with something “modern.” Fine. They were terribly, terribly wrong. But it’s just a tragic misjudgment: you can at least understand their motivations.

What is unfathomable, however, is the replacement of the original dialog for this tiny scene where Darth Vader summons a ride back to his star destroyer. Now, instead of saying:

Bring my shuttle.

Vader says:

Alert my star destroyer to prepare for my arrival.

What could have possessed them to make this change?

  1. It’s too wordy. Why say nine words when three will do very nicely?
  2. It’s so not Darth to alert anyone about anything. This is just the sort of time when people better be ready to show him how on-the-ball they are, or suffer the consequences.
  3. Finally, it suggests incompetence on the part of the Imperial Navy. “Bring my shuttle” says that you flunkies have been waiting for my order, the shuttle is fueled and manned, and you’re about to set the All-Empire record for transit from orbit to airborne city landing platform, or else everyone involved will die a slow, miserable death gasping out their apologies. “Alert my star destroyer to prepare for my arrival” envisions a star destroyer whose crew is so unfathomably lackadaisical as to be unalerted and unprepared when
    1. the Emperor’s personal representative is onboard
    2. when said representative is Darth Vader, and
    3. when he’s already strangled Admirals Ozzell and Needa since coming on board.

Accordingly, I hereby nominate this change for the single dumbest alteration of what is nevertheless one of the best movies ever made, and by far the best of the Star Wars series.

Book Packing

I’ve been packing. Our lease (actually, the 1-month extension) runs out at the end of the month, so we’re moving. I expect to know where we’re moving no later than the 24th or 25th, so we can give the moving company a “to:” address.

Anyway, I’ve been packing books. I hope to mail some of them to their final destination. (Oddly enough, the USPS media mail rate is cheaper than certain national relocation specialists. Which is why a stamp costs $0.39, I suppose.)

With the first couple of boxes I did a little study. I figured out that a 1.5 cubic-foot box of my old computer books averages 39 books and 55 lbs, while same size box of seminary books has 51 books but only weighs 45 lbs. These samples aren’t perfectly representative. The computer book sample represents almost half of the computer books I still have. (I used to have a whole bunch more, but my wife spent the last three years unloading them them on half.com.) The sample of seminary books, on the other hand, was only about 5-10% of that category, and even then, it skewed light, since it included a bunch of C.S. Lewis paperbacks.

But from these (flawed but not hopelessly so) data can be determined the following facts:

  • My average computer book weighs 1 lb 6.5 oz., while the average book from seminary weighs 14.1 oz.
  • The average computer book in this sample occupies 66.5 cubic inches while the average seminary book occupies only 50.8 cubic inches. (Typically, books aren’t cubical, but if they were, these would be cubes 4.0 and 3.7 inches on each side, respectively.)
  • Thus, the density of a computer book is about 5.6 ounces per cubic inch, while a seminary book is about 3.8 ounces per cubic inch.

(These numbers again in SI, for the world readership: computer books average 0.64 kg mass, 1.089 litres in volume, and 0.59 g/cm^3 density. Seminary books average 0.40 kg mass, only about 0.83 litres volume, and about 0.48 g/cm^3 density.)