Friday, March 31, 2006

Concern for Americans and Compassion for Immigrants...

...are not mutually exclusive. So, Lou Dobbs speaks for working Americans now? According to him:

"One of the things that frustrates many of us who care about our country and the truth is the rampant barrage of misinformation, disseminated by such vociferous special interests, whether they are ethnocentric social activists, labor unions, the Catholic Church or Corporate America. The truth is advocates of amnesty, guest-worker programs and open borders are unconcerned about the 280 million American citizens, the men and women of this country who work for a living and their families."

First off, social activists, labor unions, and the Catholic Church may be special interests, but they are, in order, pro humanity, pro American worker, and pro life (not meaning anti-abortion here, but in support of all life in all places). If they can be described as vociferous then it only because they have been consistently ignored, trampled on, and discounted by those in power. Even mentioning them in the same sentence with corporate America is indicative of the complete absense of a clue. Corporate America is getting its way more now than at any time since the great trusts and monopolies were brought down, in fact they are being built back up.

More importantly wishing/asking/hoping for kindness and mercy towards those who come here seaking a better life is not demonstrating a lack of concern for "280 million American citizens." It is extending concern to those who need it more. At the same time, something that a majority of Americans want is not the same as something that is best for them. Most people would choose to eat chocolate and ice cream over spinach and brussels sprouts. Now there is an obesity epidemic. Immigration is very complex and most people are only motivated by a few noisy talking point individuals (like ol' Lou). The decision that they would make would not be informed because our news organizations no longer seek to inform. They want to yell over the others screamers, they want to entertain. People getting along and caring for others doesn't sell like controversy and violence. Open borders may not be the answer, but neither is crimanalizing those who hope for better for themselves and thier children.

Lazy French

Ok, this is incomprehensible to me. It's like labor unions run amok. I heard about this years ago; it is rather pervasive in Europe (less so in Britan). Basically once you get a job, you're pretty much guaranteed to keep it, short of the company going under or something. The government(s) protect workers jobs by making so difficult to fire someone that companies are forced to keep incompetent/lazy workers. This means that companies are somewhat less likely to hire someone since they won't be able to fire them if they are useless. The result of overprotecting workers is abnormally high unemployment (usually 2-5 times that in the US). (Incidently this also stifles innovation which is why the U.S., Japan, Korea, etc. tend to have growing economies and more research, and why Citroen will never beat Subaru for sales/quality/anything.)

Students are rioting opposing a bill that would change this (easing policy so companies can release dead wood). So they appear to be putting forth more effort now than they plan on doing once they get a job. Otherwise why protest? If you plan on doing your job well, then there would be little to worry about. Oh, well, this is one of those reasons why Europe will always lag the US in terms of economies, innovation, invention, research, unemployment... Yes, there will be accomplishments, but fewer and less significant. It's a shame too, because there is no reason to think the people there are any less capable than here, the environment is just not right.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jobs and the American Dream

It has always been seemingly clear that there are plenty of jobs available in this country but people are seldom willing to compromise and take them. Retail, sanitation, manual labor (especially roofing/painting/non-skilled construction) are jobs that many feel are beneath them. Even people without some higher education.

I remember in high school being somewhat reluctant to admit that I was working at a McDonald's, but was very quick to tell about my job at Black Eyed Pea (which may have gone under since). There is no good reason for this...well maybe the fact that McD's paid minimum wage ($5.65 at the time), but I managed over $10/hr with tips at the Pea. And that is the crux of the matter. Money. Money makes the unseemly more workable. Many (most?) women would never consider stripping, but when those that do can take in $100-$1000 per hour it kind of makes me jealous. Sanitation workers (garbagemen...and women) may have a rather disgusting, smelly job, but if they are taking home $70k+ per year with full benefits working no more than 40 hrs/week, well, why not? One of the problems is that the American dream, which used to be that by working hard we can do better than our parents, has become a bit tarnished.

My parents were able to buy a house right out of college with one income and two children. For most people leaving college now, that is not possible. The cost of housing is prohibitive. Salaries have not increased at nearly the same rate as cost of living because of the housing issue. Debt has increased at all levels, but for those between 19 and 30 Debt is a more significant problem. There is no house to refinance to eliminate credit card debt. The cost of education and the resultant student loans are through the stratosphere. There is no forseeable way out in the near future. Many people, even capable, hard working individuals see things like the lottery and get rich quick schemes as real ways out. They are not, of course, but their success is an indication of how bad things really are. I want a house. I can not get one because of debt (mostly student loans). I cannot reduce my debt without a house.

I do see a way out...for the next few years. That doesn't mean that I am any less frustrated right now. That doesn't mean others can see a way out for themselves. The government will not do what is necessary to help (increase grant money for students by at least ten-fold). The lottery jackpot is over $100 million again.....

Monday, March 27, 2006


Is there anyone out there, over the age of five who does not know what word is represtned by: f***, f-bomb, the 'F' word, f---in' a', 'F', fuuuuuudge? How about: s--- or a-- or any other substitued swear. When someone is clearly angry and that person uses a word like crap, shoot, dang, screw (you), or rajafragin', is there anyone who doesn't imagine the analogues in their head? I have no problem with swearing, and do so often. It doesn't come up often here because I generally consider it crude when writing. There are typically far more amusing ways to express disgust/anger/frustration. But sometimes you really just need to say: "What...the...fuck?!?"

Friday, March 24, 2006

If you missed it...

Thankfully those of us who did not see CBS' "Without a Trace" episode featuring flashback clips to "a teenage sexual orgy" can see the softcore free of charge at the two sites below. Thank goodness these intrepid souls working to keep offensive material off of my tv set have the courtesy to post the offensive material online, where anyone can see it, repeatedly. I haven't been able to find this elsewhere, and I looked. You can even, thankfully, save the video to your hard drive. Hopefully someone will clean it up so that the offensive material, particularly the exposed breasts (in profile) can be more clearly seen. Thank you for providing the quasi-softcore material many [children] have been looking for but blocked by filters from seeing. It's good stuff.

UPenn is Doing Good

Even though I don't really consider $50k a year "low income," this is pretty cool. You know, I would really like to work there.

On that note, if someone from the Penn chemistry department stumbles by here, my research work will be fundamentally electrochemical with focuses (focci?) on nanomaterials--particularly with regard to photochemical properties (ECL, photo-initiated heterogeneous electron transfer)--and biological analysis (e.g. cyclic voltammetric SECM). I believe that teaching less by lecture and more with interaction (within small student groups and between the students and instructors) produces better results and more capable thinkers. Certainly presentations/lectures will still be used, but as one component, rather than the only one. I do not think that homework should ever lower a grade. I do not have a problem with failing a student who performs poorly because I believe that, in college, it is the responsibility of the students to know if they are struggling. Letters of recommendation are available upon request.

Also, don't worry if I am elected to Congress, they work less than 100 days/year, and you could pay my (faculty) salary to the chemistry department, rather than to me...until I lose in the next election.

Like they Know

So there is a Florida proposal to require high school students pick majors. High school students? Pick majors?

"'It's just stuff I don't think I'm really going to need for the job I want,' Lila said. 'I'd probably like it if I had more things to help me in the future.'"
- 15 year old Lila Zoghbi (wants to be an engineer)

Yes, she is an honor student. I'm sure she will be a very successful person. Right now, however, she lacks the wisdom, understanding, knowledge base, and foresight necessary to discern which of the things she is learning now will be helpful in her future. Neither are her parents, politicians, or even teachers able to know such things. I know this will come as a huge surprise, but the future is UNKNOWN. "Woah, really?!?" Yes, really. Even if her career choice is known and plays out as she sees it now, that does not change that she can not discern these things. Because while science and math courses have obvious associations with engineering, the effect of social studies, literature, fine arts, foreign language, et cetera is less clear. Most people think these things are important, but to what degree? Do they produce better personal skills, more complete and capable voters/citizens? Do they just allow someone to have a greater appreciation of the variety in life? No matter how many studies are done, we will never really know.

Beyond that, someone who wants to be an engineer is going to go to college, where she/he will receive all of the [engineer] specific training that he/she needs. There is no reason to target high school courses to a career. Further, core high school curricula are far from demanding for "...honor students with high ambitions..." they are virtually non-existant. If these students are so horribly bored they should take more classes, they must have room for it. I finished high school with about twice the state required classes. There was plenty of room for me to take lots of extra math, science, foreign language and fine arts (plus extra social studies and religion classes--it was a Catholic school). If Florida's school system is so strapped for cash that students are not allowed to enroll in full schedules, then that is the real problem. If students want to take more, targeted classes, that is fine, but they should never come at the expense of other coursework. If they must then either the student is in fact lazy, or the state funding is insufficient. Pushing people to choose careers earlier and earlier is a good way to make the population less and less capable.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On War and Posting.

Someone, I think Albert Einstein, once asked Sigmund Freud why we have war. His answer was Civilization and its Discontents which taught people to never ask Freud a question at parties. A rediculously simplified summary is that society places constraints on people that prevents them from acting as they would like, and war is [an] outlet. It is a way for societal stress to be released.

The internet provides a similar release valve. If someone (me) is in a good mood then there is nothing to release. If I were to post it would be rather boring reading. "Well, I took my dog out today...she is sooooo cute, I mean you wouldn't even believe it. Also I had a beer and that was mighty tasty." Okay, so I wouldn't write like that, but you get the idea. Good moods don't translate to written word so easily. Also when things are good, then I am (generally) not motivated to post. I will be more motivated to do other things, typically more active in nature. So is the general mood here going to be angry/depressed. Not always, but generally. If some politician says/does something that draws my ire, I can't exactly punch him/her in the face. It's probably not even a good idea to suggest doing so. I can rant about it. Most people don't want to hear me rant constantly, so I don't. But I don't want to fume internally about any/all of the little and big things that make me anywhere from a touch upset to boilingly head would explode thanks in large part to Dubbya n' Cronies. So I vent here. That's catharsis. I'm not really discontent, and certainly don't want to go to war, but a little venting will prevent spontaneous human combustion.

Do I think Freud was 100% right? No. While society must be involved for a conflict to become a war, the decisions made that lead to war are made by individuals. I think war is the result of weak mindedness (or evil) on the part of the agressor. As for what society stifles and how we seek to find happiness I don't really think the deliniation between the sexes is as clear cut as Freud postulates. But there is truth to be found in his writing.

Ooh, ooh, random.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

When the Environment meets the Poor

The Poor lose.

I live in Chicago. Vehicle emissions testing is required. Sounds good, right? Well, maybe. The fundamental problem with vehicle emissions testing (as it exists here, anyway) is that it is biased against the poor. Environmentally friendly often means more expensive. Hybrids: more expensive. New vehicles: more expensive. Catalytic converters are one of the more expensive pieces of a car (in part because they require platinum and maybe rhodium, even though it's only a little). This is extended to most environmental protection tech. Solar cells are pricy. Fuel cells are too. Though there is hope that, at an unidentifyable point in the future, those will be affordable. Now they are expensive.

I don't want smog. I don't want to breathe pollutants and carcinogens when I'm in the city. I get enough of that in the lab. I also wouldn't want to tell someone with a $1000 1988 Pontiac POS that they need to clean up their emission--the cost of which could easily be greater than the value of the car--or get a car that is cleaner (i.e. newer). It is not fair, it is not right. People that draft the legislation that mandates that my 15 year old SHO with 154k miles on it must meet some set of emissions criteria, don't drive 15 year old vehicles with 150k miles on them. The legislation also doesn't--and, really, can't--take into account how much someone drives. Someone with a "clean" vehichle that commutes at least 30 min to work in rush hour, and goes out for dinner/entertainment/whatever (drives) often contributes far more pollution than I do (maybe 2 hr driving/month, biking to work, taking the el, walking), with the possible exception that they drive a hybrid.

The testing is also biased against vehicles without OBD (on-board diagnostics) because they actually measure by blowing air over the engine/undercarridge and collecting at the back (at the exhaust, but also other air that is blown back), and you know what gets measured by that testing that OBD won't pick up? Splatter. If I kick oil, grease, even mud up onto the underside of my car near a hot spot (muffler, catalytic converter, ...), if oil is spilled on the engine block, if old tubing is starting to breakdown, then some of that will burn off and be detected. That will increase hydrocarbon measurements. That is not checked for with OBD. The entire of the testing is biased against older cars and poorer citizens.

Protecting the environment is a noble goal, and one which I support, but any legislaiton drafted should protect those who cannot afford to comply--I like by taxing the rich, but hey, whatever. Cars are pretty much a necessity in all but a few cities in this nation (and even in those cities, they are still a necessity for many). I would love to drive a hybrid. I cannot afford one. In the end I am going to have to increase my debt, either by spending the money on repair, or by purchasing a new(er) car, because I cannot afford either. In the end, the way the law works is unjust and immoral. It'd be nice to think that it will do some good, but even that's not really likely.

Banks are Evil

And I don't mean Hamster Dance evil, I mean full on Dick Cheney with a weapon evil. If you don't have at least $10k to keep and do nothing with, they don't give a damn about you. Even if you meet this minimum *and* have a mortgage with them, you only get upgraded to whipping boy. The only thing poor people (anyone who rents and has less than $10k of liquid assets) are good for to a bank is credit cards (debt).

Think, for just a second, about how evil they are: You give them money (which they invest) and they give you nothing. Then they make something as meaningless as free checking sound like the second comming. "Oh, my, God. You mean I can use my own money? You mean I can take cash out at an atm, or look at my balance online, or write as many checks as I like without getting overdrawn? You won't charge me for any of that while at the same time you will earn 15% interest on every dollar that runs through you including my paycheck? What kind of interest does it pay? Zero, really? Oh, if I maintain a $10,000 balance then I can get 1% return. No, no I'm sure your service is worth that." It's only a big deal because banks are greedy bastards. Try and obtain an unsecured loan at a bank and the interest rate you receive will likely be worse than that of many credit cards. CREDIT CARDS!

Credit Unions are the brick and mortar answers. Profit is all returned to those with shares (savings, checking, cd...). Interest rates are better, loans are easier to come by and there are fewer penalties. In terms of savings alone, the internet is king. Zero minimum balance, no load, highly liquid money market accounts can easily earn upwards of 4% interest. You often need at least $25k at a bank to approach that number. The competition is actually making banks offer slightly better deals, but they still make any tiny little thing seem like some amazing, shocking, benefit that they do because they care so much for people. If you must use one, and I must, then do a "free checking" deal and keep the balance as low as possible (I like using PayPal--4.25%--and a cash back credit card paid off each month).

I don't like banks because they reap massive profits off of people in horrible debt.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Write in "Jacob B. Ketter" for U.S. Representative

If you are here as the result of clicking a link in an e-mail, then I apologize for getting all in your inbox. Well, not really. This is a petition to write in Jacob B. Ketter (me) for United States representative, or, really any race that you don't care about.

I hate the direction politics has taken. I trust very few politicians. I do think that $160k per year is a huge salary. I have opinions. I express them. Because of those last two I am a horrible candidate for United States representative. I'm not on the ballot.

I want to be though, and not just for the $160k /year. I want to be on the floor of the large legislative body that is the US House of Representatives with sock puppets. I want to have my [diatribes] broacast on CSPAN where as many as 12 people could see them. I want to be marginalized by the majority party (whoever it is) to committees with little real impact; even there I want to have my opinions ignored because I am not one of "them." I want to spark huge volumes of hate mail by saying things like "parents are the real problem," and "really, the second ammendment is obsolete." I want to post rants in my web log that are actually read. I want people with too much time on their hands and who concentrate on a single issue to be upset that I voted against/for said issue without having read the thousands of pages of documents for/against it, while ignoring the fact that there is more printed material produced in a congressional year than is possible for a single person to read, much less to read comprehensively, make an informed decision and then vote on. I want to pick my battles. I want to write very long winded sentences so that I seem more important and that allude in my mind to Faulkner, but really hope that the point will be lost on lesser folk who got too wrapped up in my loquacious manner and maybe gave up so that they will never really know that I am, for better or worse, rather sarcastic, and to a certain extent that I look with disdain on those who are incapable of finding humor in such statements, or, really even incapable of finishing the reading of said statements, though maybe I should not use punctuation specifically commas or dashes either... I want to make promises.

I promise that, if elected, I will look for a really nice house in the D.C. area. I will not hire prostitutes, unless they are cheaper than interns (you know, for doing my filing, reading my emails, and whatnot). I will not lie about doing drugs. I will work less than 100 days a year. I will not take off to watch golf. I will not f***ing censor myself so as not to offend jacka**es. (Hey, I haven't f***ing been elected yet, s***-for-brains.) I will vote for any and all increases in [my] salary. I will state, publically, that it is simply a "cost of living" increase. I will vote against any bill that tries to limit our access to the internet/violent games/pornography. I will tell people that the reason is protection of our freedom of speech. I will really just think the government should stay the hell out of my life. I will oppose massive spending on everything. I will support high levels of targeted spending. I will wear flip-flops symbolically. I will watch the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, even if Congress is in session, on the floor if possible. I will vote for increases in income tax for people in the top two income brackets. I will fill out my bracket favoring KU and UNC, and I will most likely particiape in a pool somewhere. I will fully support tax cuts that lead to the elimination of taxes for those making under $25k/year. I will vote to raise the minimum wage so that those freeloaders have to pay taxes again. I will oppose any tax cut that reduces the income tax owed by either of the top two brackets, or that owed from most capital gains (stocks, real estate as investment) or inheritance by the wealthy. I will vote against any bill that grants additional power to the President of the United States. I will make science related decisions based on science. I will point out to other members of congress that I have a PhD in chemistry, because it will make people who disagree with me look like morons. I will fully support education because I have a secret desire to be able to stand humanity. I will support efforts that make sure our troops get into body armor and out of wars started by executive hubris. I will use verbiage that will make people open dictionaries, hopefully resulting in bemused expressions. I will be sure to be as ambiguous as possible so that, in the case that I change my mind/opinion in the future, I will be able to use my stellar reasoning abilities to point out that I didn't, really. I will support protection from prosecution for anyone who assaults someone for speeking using IM acronyms (lol, iirc, stfu, ...). I will speak out against the death penalty. I will try to avoid, at all costs, pissing off Wilford Brimley. I will be a vote for all Americans that I represent, and I will do my best to tell you why I am right.

If you are a disenchanted, disinterested voter, then do something more productive when you are at the poll. Write in "Jacob Ketter" for United States Represenative and cast your vote. If you're not sure which that is, write me in in all of them. (Note: Imagine, now, that I have a tear in my continue.) I have no chance of winning, but if even 1% of [my] district can vote for me, then maybe the rest of this country will sit up and realize that their voice doesn't have to be ignored.

P.S. Oh, yea, I currently live in IL 9th, but, as it's an apartment, I don't have family keeping me here, and will be moving to the District of Columbia anyway, please feel free to write me in no matter where you live.

P.P.S. This may change. Changes will not reflect shifts in opinion but refinement of ideas, inclusion of things I forgot, corrections, and maybe inclusion of others' ideas if I agree.

Still not sure

I don't know what I think of this (seemingly) new notion about conservatives out-breeding liberals. I remember an Onion article several years ago about mouth-breathers out-breeding intellectuals 2:1, and thought it was pretty funny and pretty true. Looking at the world (through history) as a whole, the more develloped and educated a nation/group/community has become, the fewer children they have had. This has been viewed as a survival trait, a financial issue, an informed decision, an environmental issue, but I don't think any one of them fits too well. Mormons are often well educated and are quite prodigous procreators. Of course religous beliefs have a tendency to trump objective notions of good/bad, right/wrong, etc. People who are indoctrinated are wholly incapable of making a rational argument/decision that goes against their indoctrination. Anti-evolution chumps are proof of that. It is not that they can't understand, it is that they refuse to (either consciously, or subconsciously).

Really, though, this isn't new. It's not even really meaningful. From what I can tell, it's mostly a way for liberal guys to get laid. "We need to populate the left, baby, and my sperm is anti-Bush, G.W. Bush, that is." "I must impregnate my secretary, honey, the left is counting on me." "Single mothers vote Democrat, I shall make more." I should print bumper stickers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Today, Tomorrow, Basketball

All Tar Heels should read this. Those who are not Heels, or are not fans of UNC, or even dislike the program (though there is no reason for this), especially those whose teams have lost--and at some point most of yours will--should at least read the excerpt below.

Right now this hurts.

Tomorrow, supposedly, it will feel better.
Right now I do not want to hear about brackets, Cinderellas, or upsets. Right now I do not want to watch one second of the rest of the NCAA Tournament.

Tomorrow I think I will start paying attention to baseball.
Right now I don't want to think about next year, which is funny because when this season started--think back with me--all anyone wanted to talk about was next year. "Just survive this year and get to next year. Man, we are going to be good next year. I can't wait until next year." But right now I don't want to hear about recruits or depth or predictions or schedules.

Tomorrow I think 2007 might start to look very enjoyable.

Right now I am disappointed.

Tomorrow I think this team becomes a benchmark. As in sitting around 10 years from now and telling your buddy, "Man, if this team played as hard as that team we had in 2006..."
Tomorrow I think the pain will start to go away.

Right now I am ready for tomorrow.
----------------------------- Adam Lucas at


I still love March Maddness, but man...

I was reading this article and had a couple thoughts.

"Gen M" where 'M' is for Mobile, or Morose, or Morbidly obese, or Mitigating circumstances, or somesuch. This labeling generations is a bit out of hand. Plus it leads to tragedy. Gen X brought us X-treme everything. I think I have some X-oranges to go with some X-campbell's soup for lunch. Gen Y (for y'n, that's whine for the rest of us) was overly pampered, wanted to be rebels and misunderstood and crap, but had absolutely no justification for such and so did things like have school massacres, attend raves, and buy Brittney Spears albums *shudder*. And now we have Gen M. Give me a friggin' break. They are about as pampered as gen Y (despite the economic downturn) but even more apathetic. When these people run the country, we are all doomed. As evidence:

" professors are using film, audio clips and PowerPoint presentations to play to their students' strengths and capture their evanescent attention." In other words: kids are more useless than before and we have to turn classrooms into commercials for them to get it, oh, and I love the phrase "evanescent attention." Seriously, this is pandering and pampering so that little Johnny and lil' Sue don't fail, become meth addicts and spend the rest of their lives in their parents' basements playing video games and eating potato chips.

The article is pretty much on the money, except it's forgetting something. There is absolutely no reason for us to care. Parents who allow their children to spend 6+ hours a day "plugged-in" are useless, as their children will be later in life. This doesn't mean they won't get jobs and be well paid, but their value as human beings will be minimal.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Damn, I'm a Friggin' Genius

I can't even begin to count how many times I have gone off about this. Mostly my rants were heard by other grad students and were related to professors who wanted "at least" 60 hours/week in lab. Read the article, but the gist is that if someone is tired, then they cannot think as well. As quality research requires that a student think clearly and rationally, tired students = poorer work. In mindless occupations (where individual safety is not a concern) then more time working means more productivity. The article points out that many of those types of jobs are shifting overseas. Occupaitons that require decision making, understanding, and/or creativity require well rested minds.

Time to Dance

The NCAA basketball tournament is upon us. The first round of the men's is half over. The uber-hyped Big East is 0-3. As happy as it makes me to see them lose, primarily so that crybaby Packer looks like the tool he is, I don't think the conference was "overvalued." Seton Hall was the only somewhat questionable team from the Big East in, and they probably did deserve their bid. The reason for the 0-3 mark, and the reason that the first couple rounds of the tourney are often spotted with wacky results, is the difference between "any given day" and "every single day." In general, conference champions are winners. They always come to play, and they win as a result. The lower you go in a conference, the less consistent the play. By the Elite 8 the top teams have generally shaken out. These are typically very talented, and consistent teams. These are big conference winners. There are exceptions. Extremely talented teams often go to sleep on the court and become vulnerable to (somewhat) less talented teams that show up (see Kansas-Arizona '97, Michigan-UNC '93, others...). Younger teams may need half a season before they really learn to play with each other and within their system. Talented young teams, in particular, can also be quite streaky (Syracuse '03, lost 4 straight before running the tourney). The tournament is magic. Almost every game is fun to watch and there are more exciting finishes than we are entitled to. Heart stopping, fist pumping moments. Come on, day 2.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I absolutely despise our president. He is--and there is no word truly srong enough to accurately portray this--stupid. Pre-emptively attacking (people, nations, ideas) is wrong. Always. Even when it is socially justifiable. We have zero ability to predict the future, even a muppet knows that "Always in motion is the future." Even in the absense of "weapons of mass destruction" (which is a misnomer aimed at frightening people) most people think that ousting Sadam from power was still a good thing to do. But, really, was it? I certainly can't say. Was there really more killing and terror when he was in power? Maybe. Americans were certainly less threatened when he was there, though. Arguably, aside from Osama, the one person who has most increased the danger to our country and its citizens is G. W. Bush himself. If pre-emption is really in the best interest of this nation, then shouldn't the entire administration be removed from office. I feel quite certain that our founding fathers would think so.

But maybe not. Maybe the moron is right. Next time you think that your spouse may, at some unidentifyable point in the future, potentially cheat on you (warning signs include, but are not limited to: he/she has a penis/vagina, he/she enjoys sex, he/she is sometimes tired), you need to strike first. A good beating will certainly ensure that your husband/wife toes the line in the future. Kids are always causing problems. Stop waiting for the note from the teacher, or the detention, or the broken window, just go smack them around now. Then they'll know better. Did your neighbor just get a new dog? Don't wait for it to crap on your lawn to get angry, go take a shovel to that mutt right now. Break a leg and it'll know better than to even so much as look at that new tree you planted with a jealous eye. Did you find a notebook in which one of your students scribbled death threats and drew skulls and guns. Make sure to expell them, and maybe incarcerate them as well, because that will teach them that good members of society only think happy thoughts. Pre-emptive strikes: the only way to protect society from itself. <sarcasm>

Monday, March 13, 2006

Billy Packer is an Idiot

Actually, most of CBS' sports department should really be torched so something usefull can be added, like maybe programming covering grass growing and paint drying. It would speak well to their core audience of 95 year olds with severe hearing loss and thick glasses that they keep forgetting to put on. Every year they have the NCAA men's basketball tournament (because they don't spend money for NFL rights they can afford it), and every year they make one of the greatest sporting events in the country (if not the greatest) one of the most painfull viewing experiences I go through. It starts with selection Sunday. I fought hard the urge to grab a large stick and beat my television as I listened to Packer and company bitch about how the big conferences were short changed, and too many mid-majors got in.

Every year deserving teams are left out of the tournament and poorer teams get in. Funny things happen. Does Syracuse deserve a 5 seed? Overall, probably not, but they are playing well, so it kind of makes sense. Should Tennesee be a 2? Should GW be an 8? Probably not and God, no. GW was 26-2. The fewest losses in the country. But they didn't play terribly strong opponents. Still, they should be no lower than 4 (they were ranked 6 before their last loss). This alone is proof that the tournament committee did not overvalue mid-majors. Now, I don't think Air Force deserves to be in the tournament, and Missouri State should probably have gotten thier bid, but Cincy, MD, FSU, CU, and any other major school you want to put in there instead does not deserve to be there. No matter how good a conference is, a team near or under .500, or 5+ games off the leader(s) shouldn't get in. There are some judgement calls to be made, like maybe Seton Hall (+) and Colorado(-), but that's generally a good rule of thumb. The NIT is the place for good schools who couldn't cut it in their own conference; the NCAA is for teams that show up day in, day out. If you are the 7th best team in your conference and incapable of winning the conference tournament then you are NOT the best team in the country and really do not deserve a shot at claiming that. Being competitive game in-game out is not the same as being competitive in a conference. (aside: really, Missouri State is pretty much the only team in the country with a justifiable gripe about not getting in.)

Of course Billy Packer has always been one to suck at the teet of the ACC and Big East, etc. You would think they pay his salary the way he lauds them. His game commentary is typically full of such crap and while a former coach being so clueless is somewhat awe inspiring, he makes the NCAA tournament a painful aggravating experience, and that is very hard to do.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Not Again!

South Carolina school board said no to analyzing evolution. This is all well and good, and people may think scientists will be happy about this, and many may be, but there are a few problems.

"...Senator Mike Fair, R-Greenville, has said [the proposal] was intended to introduce students to challenges to evolutionary theory." This is a lie. This is not the intent of any of these proposals, if it were there would be similar proposals related to gravity, black holes, (molecular) bonding theory, etc. Further, such a noble goal would have the full support of scientists who are actually quite fond of challenging existing ideas. The real intent of these porposals is to preach in a science classroom.

Also, the board vote was 10-6 against. This indicates a pretty strong support, and nothing a fundi election can't turn around. That people belive in creationist ideas is fine. Even a majority. That they would have the gall to try and strike out against science, one of the most objective branches of learning, is rather appaling. If someone is suffering acute pain in their abdomen, their liberal arts educated spouse doesn't try and diagnose the problem and then break out a kitchen knife and a lighter when they decide it must be appendicitus, so why the hell do these same people think they are remotely qualified to say what science is?

There are controversies and difference of opinions in science and it seems like it would be a good idea to get people thinking by bringing them up, but it is not really possible. There are no high school science students with the knowledge base (including technical awareness, detailed understanding of existing theory, and the rational experience to successfully extend said knowledge to unknown problems) to even begin to comprehend true scientific controversy. There are damned few high school science teachers with the chops to do so. High school science is there to give a base upon which to build. Politicians seem to want to weaken that base so that people become even less capable of intelligent decisions. Anyone who supports bills like these at any level is either a moron or an evil power-hungry jerk.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I have a degree from there!

So terrorism has struck at UNC. My initial reaction is: wow, people are stupid. Let's say you are a member of a race/religion/ethnic group/etc. that you see as being treated in a predjudicial manner, like, say, people perceive you all as terrorists. Moreover, let's say that something happened that provoked a horrified response and reaction against your group--I don't know, maybe some highly visible, landmark building (or two) in a major U.S. city, like New York, was attacked/destroyed. Would your response be: Pray, give to charity, help out those most strongly affected? Complain online about how poorly you are being portrayed/treated by the media, politicians, police? Remain/become a part of the real world, interacting with many different people, hoping that the more people you can postivly affect, the better things will be? Try and run people over with your (hyper-American) SUV?

I know most Muslims are not terrorists, just like I know most Christians aren't clan members (or Fred Phelps), but if some cartoon were to degrade Jesus, would would angry Christians in this country take to the streets to riot and cause the deaths of many? Probably not (our riots are primarily reserved for athletic championships). I think the main reason for the response in largly Muslim nations is their generally poorer education. (Which is likely a result of poverty and Western enabling to get oil.) What's the excuse for the idiot in Chapel Hill? There is none. Congradulations, jackass, your astute problem solving skills just made more people hate Muslims.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Channel One

When I was in the 7th or 8th grade I was selected to tape a commercial for channel one. I don't have the slightest idea what the commercial was for. I just remember going into downtown Dallas with my dad and Vincent (my classmate who did the spot with me). In fact I don't remember channel one at all. I know we had it, but it really was a non-entity. Things seem to be little different now, though the commercials are somewhat memorable. I have never thought that channel one was remotely worthwhile except that they provide free stuff to schools. That they would have such a moron as CEO seems to be a further indication of this.

Quoting CNN, or maybe the AP: "Channel One CEO Judy Harris questioned whether the students' purchases were influenced exclusively by Channel One ads or by other advertising and the preferences of their peers."

If the channel one ads didn't influence students, then advertisers WOULN'T PAY FOR THEM. She worms her way out of beeing completely idiotic by use of the word "exclusively," but that doesn't forgive her disturbing representation of channel one as innocuous. Channel one and everything associated with it is about greed, it just masks itself as educational (it may not have always been this way, and the people there now may believe they are doing good). I know schools need some of the technology offered, and place the blame for this fiasco firmly on the voters. You want good schools and low taxes. You can't have both. I don't care how bloated you (and I) think the government is, education doesn't receive 20% of what it should. Pay for it with taxes or with fat, brainwashed children.

Evidence of God's wrath

I'm eagerly awaiting Pat Roberson's public response to this. Promiscuity and homosexuality in monkeys that are being driven to extinction by people eating them. If God made the sex crazed monkeys tasty, then maybe we are supposed to eat them to extinction. Or maybe we just have a bit of a habit of eating things to extinction. Hmm...


I'll admit that testing is a prickly issue in many ways, and I will likely rattle of a few rants on it. The current topic has to do with diferences between state and federal test results (read at CNN).

Among the quotes: "In North Carolina, 88 percent of eighth-graders were proficient or better in reading on the state test. On the federal test, 27 percent were."

Having taught--only a little--at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which consists of the cream of the crop of NC high school students, I must say this seems about right. If states set thier own standards for proficiency and federal funding is dependent on the results, then the natural extension is to make the standards as lax as possible while still maintaining some semblence of credibility. Solving the issue is not trivial, but the results presented should come as a surprise to no one.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Passive Agressive

After decades of forcing students to not strike out, physically or verbally, at school against other students/teachers, and basically confining anger and frustration to the realm of passive agression, we have lately decided to police that. Look, I know making threats is bad. I also know people do it on a daily basis. Further, if some child does decide to go Columbine, and people--after the fact--find journals, on line or at home, that talk about killing and hating, then they will say the school/administration/government/etc. should have known, and there will be a lawsuit. Unfortunately this is total b.s. There are always warning signs after the fact. Tens or hundreds of thousands of people in this country have likely posted somewhere online that they would like to kill someone (George Lucas, a classmate, politician, whoever). How many would ever really consider doing such a thing? Maybe, maybe, 1%. Likely far less than that.

Most people understand that a parent whose son just flooded the house saying "I'm going to kill that kid!" is not speaking literally. For some reason people think expressions like this are worse when done online. In some ways I can see that (the ability to correct, the extra time needed to compose and upload, the notion of a permanent statement rather than a transient thought,...) but for most people who post online it is a form of release. I can't personally cause the earth to swallow the entire administration, but I can bitch about them, and propose research that would lead to a "human swallowing land generator" complete with drawings. Moreover, complaining online is even more of a release because of the possibility of many people reading it, even though I know very few do. Complaining to friends can get tiresome, especially when they all agree.

If we demonize kids for what they do online we will only serve to further alienate them by taking away one of their outlets, further pushing them to react badly. If there is a real problem reaching out is the only way to help. Their acceptance of that help must be voluntary. We cannot police thought, as much as the current administration and many schools want to.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Clubbing baby seals

Their parents just don't know what to do with them. They used to be all soft and friendly and cute. Not any more. Now they are hanging out with the wrong crowd, experimenting with mind altering "activities," and many are dying before they even have the chance to really live. "It's a shame," one of the adult seals, who wished to remain anonymous stated, "but that's what happens when you start hanging out with these humans." Another was less detached. "Just two days ago [our child] was born and already she is strutting, putting her soft, white, fur-covered body on display for the whole world to see. We've tried everything, but once she is weaned, there'll be no controlling her."

Many affluent individuals, particularly in Russia, China and Finland, will pay rather large sums of money for the privalege of stroking the soft supple body of these underage seals. More than that, most have no regard for the life of the young they wish to have wrapped around their bodies. In fact the vast majority of the pre-adolescent seals will be beaten to death so as not to damage the soft skin that is all the wealthy are really interested in.

There is some hope for these Arctic families. British activist rocker Paul (twigs and berries) McCartney and his wife are coming to thieir aid.

When asked for comment an endangered Virginia big-eared bat quipped, "Oh, gee another cute species is being saved by a famous, tree-hugging bleeding heart huh? Christ is the harp seal even a threatened species?!? I mean, I've had three litters die off entirely thanks to humans disturbing my breeding grounds and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a suitable mate anymore, but do those McCartney knobs come down here to try and help us? Nooo. They prefer to save cute species that are in no danger of being exterminated! And, another thing..."

As a noteworthy aside Canadian seal products have been banned in the USA since 1972 and in Europe since 1983, making the United States world leaders when it comes to implimenting environmental issues that won't actually have an environmental impact.

Complex Reading

ACT released a study concerning preparedness for college and how it relates to students' ability to do complex reading. While what they are talking about--the ability to make appropriate inferences, to understand subtext, to understand the vocabulary, etc.--is right, their solution--reading classes--seems to be a big swing and a miss. Since most (all) high school students take english classes and most (all) of those classes are literature oriented, they are taking reading classes anyway. Supplimental courses on how to read would be a waste of time. Any student who can read and comprehend Huck Finn or Romeo and Juliet is already capable of complex reading. The fact is that they can't.

This is a problem that politics and parents create more than teachers. So long as the aforementioned Shakespeare tragedy is considered a love story with a tragic twist people don't have issue with it. If it were to be portrayed as a violent revenge filled teenage sex romp, there would be letters. Of course the students may get more interested and start to read a little deeper, but that takes a back seat to protecting them from smut. Politicians don't want educated students because when they reach voting age they would be smart enough not to vote for them. Education brings emancipation.


I don't really like the Democrats or the Republicans, though for vastly different reasons. I do like the Onion's take on the Democratic party in the coming election.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Oh, those crazy Utes.

Utah Republican state Sen. Chris Buttars' bill that would force teachers to proselytize against evolution recently got shot down. Some quotes:

"I don't believe that anybody in there really wants their kids to be taught that their great-grandfather was an ape," - Sen. Buttars

That's true, some may come to the realization that many haven't evolved beyond that state.

"If we decide to weigh in on this part [evolution], are we going to begin weighing in on all the others [scientific theories 'from Quantum physics to Freud'] and are we the correct body to do that?" - Rep. Scott Wyatt-R

To answer: yes, and no. Here we see sense. Legistators are, by and large, not scientists, and should stay the hell out of the science classroom, and probably most other classrooms as well. There is no shortage of qualified individuals and organizations to look to for guidance as to what should be taught. In the case of science, here's a general rule of thumb: if your state's/city's guidelines don't match with what National Academy of Science thinks, then vote them out of office or move out of Kansas. (That I am in large part from that state and am a Jayhawk first and foremost causes me physical pain when I hear about the crap they are doing.)


"Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead," Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky

I'm sure Daily Kos is going to have a field day with this one. People died for our civil liberties, this statement just takes a crap on every American sodier that has died, ever. I hope the rest of Kentucky doesn't hate America as much as Senator Bunning. Why the hell are we fighting terrorists if we are going to let them win by eliminating liberty in our own nation? And what chance do we have of guiding Iraq toward a free, democratic nation if we are moving our own in the opposite direction?

Cigarettes are Bad

There is no denying the health problems that result from smoking. If you smoke a lot, and barring all other accidents, it will kill all likelyhood. Because cigarettes are seen by the majority of Americans as something inherintly evil, they are one of the few things that people don't mind taxing the hell out of. Chicago, the militant outpost of the democratic party, just upped the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, raising the price of an average pack of cigarettes to about $6. This is, and I can't emphasize this enough, stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid.

I have been known to smoke. At the height of my crazy smoking days I could go through more than half a pack of smokes a day...if I spent that day at a bar, but still. If debauchary strikes, and someone offers, I may still infuse my lungs with nicotine and tar laden smoke. As a chemist I figure I'm likely to die of cancer anyway, and considering some of the chemical cabinets I've been exposed to cigarette smoke may actually act to clean my lungs up a bit.

Back to the main topic, I havn't purchased cigarettes in over 5 years, and I seriously doubt I ever will again, so this tax doesn't personally affect me. It does affect Chicago residents, however. Badly. As the price here goes up more and more people will leave Chicago for smokes. Saving $10-$20/carton is worth the gas to drive to Indiana or Wisconsin (or just out of Chicago to the west). Chicago will lose tax revenue. More people may stop smoking, but so what? It is not the job of government to ensure we make good, healthy decisions (yes, I know that sick smokers cost the taxpayers money, but, like I said, Chicago could lose money as a result of this). Also, and I will continue to rail on legislation that does this, it is taxing the poor more than the wealthy. I think taxes, and sales taxes in particular, are good, but I think the rich should suffer the heaviest burden (moreso than they already do). It may sound stereotypical but it needn't be because even if [cigarette] smoking rates are the same per income bracket, those with the means to get out of Chicago and stock up will do so. Those who can't afford to drop $100+ on a smokes stockpile will be the ones to pay the tax.