Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pump Bomb

I got a kick out of this story. A guy going through airport security with his mother is asked about an item in his bag. The item is a penis pump, but to keep his mom from finding out, he says it is a bomb. That's funny. Of course he likely did lean over and wisper "pump," but as security heard "bomb" he is being charged. But what I really got a kick out of was at the end when he says about having a penis pump: " 'It's normal,' he said. 'Half of America they use it.' "

I suppose if you guage by spam that may be true, but half?!? On the other hand maybe we should see this as increasing equality between the sexes: now both men and women feel they need to improve thier body to be considered worthwhile. Heaven forbid people actually be comfortable with who they are...oh, well, I guess advertisers are happy anyway, and the manufacturers of penis pumps may have their new add: "Everyone is going to assume you have one anyway, so you might as well..."

Yare, Yare.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Best Government is...

Whatever works. Let's look at the general possibilities: Autocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy...rule of One, Few, or Many. Communism, Capitalism, and Socialism are economic terms, not government. Representative Democracy is what the U.S. Constitution outlines for our nation, though we are arguably a Plutocracy in practice (oligarchy with the few being the wealthy).

But nevermind that. What works best is what works. An absolute monarchy (autocracy) could be peachy if that monarch is very benevolent. Democracy can fail miserably if the under represented are persecuted to the point of revolt, or if various groups detest each other (kind of like in Iraq now). The quality of a government of any kind is a direct representation of the quality of the people that make up that government (in a democracy it is the quality of those in the majority). Yes, in general, more people involved means a fairer governing and turnover in elected officials means bad times are shorter, but the general notion that more people ruling is better really has more to do with the perceived nature of those who seek power, notably that they are not as likely to be decent folk. So statements about democracy being the best form of government are really just statements endorsing a statistical sampling of decency in human beings.

Friday, August 18, 2006

So That's Why

Many people don't like Democrats...

I live half a block from the lake in Chicago (Rogers Park, not swank) and the city beach at the end of my street is a common place for dogs and owners to hang out (mine and me included). A city provided trash can is there where dog waste accounts for approximately 90% of the trash. The trash can used to be a 55 gallon metal drum. It was recently replaced (probably 3 months ago, and, yes, this has been festering) by a lidded plastic bin of roughly equal size. I've a feeling that similar changes were made in parks throughout my little ward, if not across the city.

So, the city likely spent a fair chunk of cash to replace perfectly serviceable bins, that really didn't look too bad with ones that look like the park is a construction zone, and, moreover, are lidded, and primarily filled with dog shit. For those of you without functioning olfactory systems, scroll down to a different post, but for everyone else... If you take a foul smelling anything and seal it up, then the smell festers and gets worse, and every time you open the sealed vessel you are assaulted by the pungent odors. If, on the other hand, you leave smelly things open to the air then this doesn't happen. Science types are aware that this is due to anaerobic bacteria (which make up ~50% of the dry weight of feces...yours too) which release pungent smelling products when feeding. Exposure to air allows for aerobic bacteria, along with many critters (worms, flys, etc...) that are also aerobic in nature, to process the waste allowing it to be broken down more quickly and with less nasty resulting odors. This is also why compost piles need to be turned, or to be arranged so that they get good air flow through them (adding dry leaves). So the city spent a bunch of money to make things look (subjective) and smell (objective) worse. Wasteful spending, likely because the in-law of some alderman works for the company that makes the plastic bins. And people wonder why Americans think all politicians are corrupt.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Now They Get It

This just in (on the cover of Time magazine): top tier schools not all that important. This is actually semi-related to a post I've started and not gotten up yet about how pursuit of an academic career is, umm, challenging. While it was very true 50 years ago that if you wanted success in most fields which required college degrees, going to a premier university was a huge leg up, any more: not so much. Lots of reasons for that including the fact that more people (and more highly capable people) going to college, and more new jobs being created (particularly technology related).

Even when I was applying to college way back in 1994, things were changing. Of the (likely) brightest 10 people in my high school class, at least 5 (including the top 2-3, one of whom, I think nearly, won a Rhodes Scholarship ...memory bad, don't care) went to state schools, and none of the rest went to any large, famous university (mostly smaller colleges, with varying degrees of name recognition). The fact is that ability is rewarded in the private sector, particularly if you work in a technology field. Jargon-speek (4337-speek for management types) is also helpful for advancement and something that the school you went to won't really advance. Having a B.A. in English from Harvard may help a touch when applying for various (typically business) jobs, but once you are hired for the first time your education has done all it can. You need to learn new things, and work well (smarter or harder, or both if you are a lawyer) to move up. There are ceilings related to your terminal degree, field and luck, but not the name of the school on your diploma.