Monday, December 14, 2009

What Don't they Get?

I understand that the insane practice of filibustering everything as only practiced by Republicans when they are in the minority in the past 15 years or so makes operating in the Senate hard. The thing I don't get, is that there are paths around it: get rid of it, use reconciliation (for budget things), or change it somehow (to what it originally was, or Lieberman-of-old's suggestion that cloture would require fewer votes each time).

What (Democratic) Senators who are allowing themselves and bills to be held hostage by Lieberman and to a lesser extent a few others don't seem to understand is that their allowing one Senator (particularly Joe) to have such power means they will lose elections in coming years.

Why the hell should I vote for either of my Senators when they have zero effectiveness compared to Joe? Why should I vote for a Democrat when they are far less productive than Republicans? I may disagree with Republicans on policy issues, and I may think that they will ruin the country (much) faster, but maybe a bullet to the head is more humane than death by a thousand small cuts.

I wasn't particularly starry eyed last election, but I was cautiously optimistic. I had no idea that such an overwhelming victory, and that such large majorities and so much public support would be so poorly utilized by Democrats. And I am a fairly smart, informed, knowledgeable voter. People with less understanding are likely to be even more upset (or ambivalent). If I am considering not voting (for Democrats in office) next election--and I am--then they should be very worried, and they don't seem to be.

If the country is divided 65-35 on opinion, but 90% of the 35 are enegized to vote and only 45% of the 65 are, then 65% of the country loses. 35% wins, and gets to govern, and we all know that when Republicans (35%) are in power, they accomplish things. They will be more than happy to hit the gas and run us back toward that cliff (and over it) reveling in the speed. Democrats don't want to steer away or brake, however, they just let up on the gas pedal. I'll take the spectacle of flaming death over useless futility any day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Big Bunny

Ok, you should read the article, but I had to post the picture. The article is actually a couple years old. I'm pretty sure this means that by now N. Korea has turned the above into a weapon of some sort for which one would need a Holy Hand Grenade to combat it.

Main reason I post this is because, again, I don't wholly get why we decide some animals are food and others are companions. Despite my having no (fundamental) problem with meat, I actually can sympathize more with people who are vegetarians because they don't want to kill, cook, and eat any animals than I can with people who have no problem with beef or pork but are horrified that someone would eat a dog.

I can also see an argument for eating down the development ladder such that eating mammals is worse than birds is worse than fish is worse than bugs (like lobster). ...I think birds are higher than fish on that scale; could be wrong though.

I do think that we consume far too much animal protein--particularly in this country where too much of that fraction is from cows and pigs--but arbitrary distinctions about what animals we can and can't eat seems silly, and even somewhat counter productive.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Disconnected Synchronization

I was at a loss for a title after reading this and wanting to say something about it. Then I read this and it became a happy day for title writing (for me and my weirdness).

The pervasiveness of making things girly or manly does seem to have extended quite a way and I'm not a very big fan. The shampoo aisle is loaded down with lots of FOR MEN items and lots of things that are not labeled but that smell like various flowers and fruits--because we all know that women like to buy shampoos, so we have to special label the ones for men, and also because women want to smell like flowers and fruit and men want to smell like...well, I don't know, because descriptions for man scented things are never descriptive of actual smells. I mean, what the hell does "sport" smell like? Because I think of sweat and gym bag funk, and those are not really appealing to me.

I'm pretty sure the marketing department consults frat boys to decide what they want to call something: "Essence of pumpkin pie and sandalwood shall henceforth be 'balls' scent."

I just want to smell clean. I used to think "Thank God for Suave" but now they have jumped into this crap, and they seem to be phasing out their neutral(ish) items (which still have bizarre names like "waterfall" and "ocean breeze"). I would be in a euphoric state (not to mention geek heaven) if some shampoo company would release a product named "Surfactant and EDTA for Hair." I'd pay $10 a bottle for that!

Are there really men out there who are so insecure that they need to have it reinforced that all their products are not for women? And who are these women who buy pink...everything?!? Neverminding that pink used to be a masculine color, who wants everything to be the same color (unless it's black, which is always cool, or, you know, whatever, just like an expression of my individuality)? I don't go out of my way to get blue versions of everything because I'm a boy. I just don't get it I guess.

I don't see a gender identity in my shampoo or toothbrush or tissues or... The way I see it any male who does need that identification must have a pretty damned hard time figuring out on his own if his gonads are external.*

*Of course this makes is frustrating as hell when I feel shoehorned into buying something with the big MAN stamp on it...kind of makes me want to get a pink flowery thing to assert that I am truly aware of and comfortable with my external genetalia :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Optimism Will Destroy America

So I read this rather depressing take on the state of the US. I'll admit a certain degree of shared pessimism here. There is a powerful drive to cling to hope and a belief that things are better than they are that prevents people from facing up to real challenges. This is not a left or right issue but a human one. People have faith in Obama, or in a well of eternal oil located somewhere on US land, or that science will save us from any problems, or that we will recover because we want to or that the earth is too strong to have problems and scientists are liars.

Climate and energy are MAJOR problems. Transportation is connected with both as is food production and distribution.

As a quick aside for one potential reader: there is a tendency among others, myself included, to fail to see positive potential in the face of problems that do not have solutions which can be discerned. I am very on the fence here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not Enough Time For Meaningful Post

So apparently Americans see China as an economic threat. The past nearly 10 years has demonstrated rather effectively that Americans tend to be terrified of silly things while real scary shit has us mostly non-plussed (well, until it explodes a la housing bubble).

China is an economic threat like al qaeda is a legitimate military threat to us. China is insanely heavily dependent on us for their economic well being. We buy the crap they make. For China to become a real economic behemoth they would need to be buying our crap. Their growth is insane because they are so far beneath us in standard of living and they have a massive population. Slight improvements in their structure yield massive jumps in GDP.

For all the noise about how much of our debt they own, that is an investment. They buy our debt so we can subsidize our economy when it falters so we can buy their crap. If we end up in some form of contraction, China will be hit hard. Yes, they also trade with Europe, but the only market that could replace us is their own, but that would require more domestic disposable income, meaning higher prices to manufacture, which would mean higher prices and less exports internationally. If they ever stopped pegging their currency to ours that could happen and it would be good for them. It would also lead to (US) domestic goods being relatively more affordable to produce, so it would probably be good for us too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now That's an Idea

I don't read Digby as much as others (too often evokes sympathy anger), and I have a feeling that this suggestion is mostly posited as counter to the asinine abortion tagalong to the House's HCR (Health Care Reform) bill. Still, I completely agree with it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Homebuyer Credit Should End

I know I took advantage of it. It was really conincidental that I was looking to buy my first place when the credit became available. I priced it into the house (and hope that the homeowners did not, but I really can't know if my realtor told theirs that I was a first time buyer; I hope not), and since I didn't think that home prices had fallen enough, it was helpful.

That said, the program is really (like the tax breaks for mortgage interes) a payout to people sufficiently well off to buy/own a house and that don't really need it. Moreover, it becomes counterproductive if it applies to everyone rather than just first time buyers as it looks like it will.

Tax credits/breaks for homeowners artificially raise the price of housing (much like low interest rates). This is not so much a problem if it only applies to a small subset of potential buyers (like first timers or people in the bottom one or two tax brackets or--and I know this would piss a lot of folks off--minorities). When it applies to all homeowners, however, every sale price gets to be bumped by some amount--in this case the whole price of the credit.

Encouraging home ownership is not really bad, but I don't think it much needs encouragement either, and if all the tax code is really doing is encouraging higher home prices, it should be abandoned. I don't want my house to go down in value but it won't bother me much if it does. Prices are currently (still) too high.

Plus sized?

I realize that the world of modeling is severely fucked up, but it still drives me nuts that normal (if that) women are "plus-sized" and "normal" models are thin enough to be almost invisible save for their heads when viewed from the side.

Dumb thing on CNN talking about "women of all sizes" being gorgeous, but they are really talking about normal women ("plus-sized" models). So 1. plus sized modes are not the equivalent of "women of all sizes" and 2. you have got to be fucking kidding me that some meaningful fraction of the people in this country are going to look at a plus sized model and--because of the small amount of excess body fat that is not noticeable at all when clothed other than giving them nicer curves--say or think "Damn, she's ugly!" Seriously? They are normal sized women and they are fucking models. Of course they are gorgeous.

This is news to the 0.000005% of the population that takes fashion and modeling seriously. For most (particularly heterosexual male) viewers it is just a chance to see some nearly naked lovely ladies on CNN, and for the rest it is a complete waste of time.

(Found the video online.)

Yes, I realize that body image issues have been common for women for some time and are becoming more common among men, but calling plus-sized models "women of all sizes" is problem, not solution.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Deficit Hawks are Morons

If the "fiscal responsibility" gurus of the US Senate and House were actually remotely concerned about the deficit and fiscal responsibility they would be screaming bloody murder about the war in Afghanistan and supporting a health care reform bill with the strongest no-profit option (e.g. public) possible.

Too bad we are ruled by people with a 3rd grade understanding of money and economics (and for that matter, war).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Obama's Major Failing

I've said before that unless the Obama administration rights the wrongs of the Bush administration regarding torture, and the often unlawful prosecution of the war on terror in general, I will not vote for him in 2012.

Glenn Greenwald discusses these things frequently and here is discussing more recent rebukes of the present administration from the New York Times and The Nation (two largely pro-Obama publications). Unlike the hate driven, sometimes racist, and more often than not false criticisms from the tea-bagging right, these are not imaginary accusations. They are based on the real actions that this administration has taken.

Modern (Western) civilization is dependent on the rule of law being absolute. No one person or group can be above the law. The law exists to protect society from each other, from ourselves (on occasion), and from government. If the president, whose job is to enforce the law, is not subject to it, then our society has failed. The threat of losing an election is not adequate punishment for permitting--through failure to prosecute--torture, but it's all I am capable of.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The People Who Need To

Will not be the ones who read and comprehend this. Jenny McCarthy, Robert Kennedy Jr., Glen Beck, and more: anti-scientific, illogical, child endangering fools all. The sad paradox is that hoping for this idiocy to end means hoping for many children to get sick and die, because that is the only thing that will stop it. And if the anti-vaccination crusade continues and grows sick and dying children is exactly what will happen. It's already started; it's just not yet enough.

Maybe if we pass a law that states that any parent whose child dies from a disease preventable by a vaccination they refused can be prosecuted for manslaughter. At least the risk of their gamble will be somewhat shared.

Conflicting Thoughts

On the one hand the attention paid to Prejean and her boobs is ridiculous and certainly does say something about our society in that a woman receives a greater platform and can have more influence on the public dialog by being a ditzy, artificially busty beauty pageant contestant than a woman who actually has informed views or expertise, or more than half a functional brain (those women tend to get attacked, unless they are pretty, in which case they are largely ignored while being stared at).

On the other hand "Princess Jesus Boobies" is hilarious.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

You Go Bob!

Bob Herbert's op ed in the Times is great. Until you realize that it is not going to be heeded in any meaningful way. The masters on Wall Street own our collective asses, and while many politicians are doing wonderful jobs complaining about their disgusting practices, it is a bare handful that actually have the will to do something. Both parties are owned by Wall Street and other moneyed interests (like, say, health insurance companies).

The sad fact is that unless we have publicly funded elections this will continue to be the norm--the people/groups that fund candidates have a weighted say in policy, i.e. the poor and middle class will always be screwed--but since publicly funded elections are a threat to entrenched political leaders they are not ever likely to exist.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Words that Fail the Heart

Two beats so close to seem as one
She stares, a question asked, a winsome look
He starts, then stops
Hesitancy ends the turn of phrase
Wondering at what's been lost
For fear of what could not be gained
Conversation renews but less
Fading now
The stuttering beat of his heart now one of loss
He wishes he had spoken
He fears for what would be
His heart beat catches in his throat
That refuses to pass the words it wants
Words he knows have failed him

"I love you"

The beating tries to choke out

There she goes

His friend.
His heart's pain.
It's revenge to come when he's once more alone.


friend lover confidant
those words the ghost he seeks
that one's diaphonous visage in his head
his mind melds so with hers
his heart he opens forth
his body she won't touch
he loves
he leaves
he cries
friend and confidant so true
lover not to be
he screams to the cold night

Monday, October 12, 2009


On the one hand Obama really hasn't done anything particularly Nobel Peace Prize worthy (detainees still in Gitmo, torturers running free in the US, still in Iraq, soon to be further into Afghanistan...8 yrs in, Israel still defends firing bazookas at those with slingshots, Hamas and many others in the Mid East still want Israel wiped off the map, and violence in this country seems to be up--fueled by the crazy Obama hatred).

On the other hand, you could pretty much hear the entire world release its collective breath when, on election night 2008, the angry warmonger candidate lost and the thoughtful, (somewhat) anti-war candidate won. With nations less concerned that a crazy US Commander in Chief will decide to randomly bomb them, there's a fair chance they will be more open to dialog. I'm not so sure that there would be any more war if McCain had won, but the world would be a whole lot more nervous.

Update: Matt Taibbi explains my thoughts on this way better than I ever could (what with it being his job, and him being good at it and all).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Suspicions are Thus

The health care debate has been driving me crazy on the hyperbolic idiot opposition front, but I haven't really done or said much on the Obama front of this "debate," and that is largely because my only real gripe is that he started with his stated position from the campaign rather than something like single payer. More, I kind of got a feeling that his hands off approach (as opposed to his dealings on the stimulus) had some purpose. This little explanation of the (possible?) strategy makes sense to me.

Obama is a calculating politician. One who knows the Senate fairly well I'd guess, and that that body is the one with a massive inertia. Mostly it just sits still. On rare occasion it will move a bit but hardly ever beyond a snail's pace. Slow steady pressure probably works best to get the damn thing moving, and if he can get the Senate to a favorable point on this issue he probably will have pretty smooth sailing on getting legislation he wants passed for the duration of his presidency. ...Especially considering that, despite the noise from the crazies, he is not even close to radical.

Presidents Are Neither Idols Nor Demons

My life has seen exactly one president who did not seem to be turned into idol and demon by his supporters and detractors: George H. W. Bush (Ok, I'm not so sure about Ford, but he lost his bid for reelection when I was like two weeks old). Carter, Regan, Clinton, Dubya and now Obama all have sprung their own personal bands of worshipers and screaming angry detractors.

My personal politics and philosophy are that Dubya was a disaster, Regan was a net negative, Clinton was meh, Carter I judge as a good person who was president at a bad time and who did a poor job of responding to problems (at least publicly in dealing with the American people), and Bush the elder was a decent though hardly great president. Obama has not been in office too long yet, and my opinion is decidedly split: bailout bad, though not his fault; stimulus good though not enough; no prosecution of torturers deplorable, but we'll see what comes; foreign relations good, but those wars are still sticky; gay rights forgotten; and health care will continue to be frustrating until a bill is actually passed, and then maybe still.

Obama has not done anything to be compared with Hitler or Stalin, nor has he done anything to receive the benefit of any and all doubt. There is a cult of the presidency that goes beyond the office and which I find strange and creepy.

I thought that W was a horrible choice for president, but I agreed with him (still do) on immigration. I think Clinton was ok, but he was one more in the line of financially deregulating chief executives (I have no idea why the right gets a louder voice in economics even with Democratic presidents, but we are seeing that again with Obama--the left response would have been bigger stimulus w/o tax cuts and to nationalize any bank "too big to fail"). I voted last fall for the person I felt would make a better president. Given the alternative, I'm fairly sure that the Democrats could have nominated anyone and still received my vote.

Obama could well be(come) a transformative president--he certainly was such as a candidate--but he is a politician, not a deity, and I will always be somewhat suspicious of anyone who desires that office, power and corruption and difficulty and all.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Answer: Speed Bumps

I know that most drivers (myself included) are not huge fans of speed bumps. I've a pretty strong feeling that this is because, unlike other things--like, say, speed limits--they actually limit a driver's ability to drive really fast. Even stop signs (and, definitely yield signs) are only partial solutions (in my experience, neighborhoods with many stop signs have many people running stop signs).

Just imagine if every neighborhood, and in urban centers, every street (possibly excluding major thoroughfares) had speed bumps (just before/after each intersection, and maybe every 1000 ft otherwise). It would slow traffic putting walkers, bicyclers, children playing soccer all in less danger of being run over. It would also reduce traffic by making that short cut take a little longer. It could even encourage people to walk or bicycle 1-10 blocks to the store rather than drive it every day.

In the grand scheme of things, it isn't even that expensive, just a bit of extra asphalt/concrete and a form when roads are constructed, and could be done on the resurfacing schedule, or in places with good long lasting roads (i.e. concrete surfaces, mostly in places without real winter), start with more direct through roads first then move onto side streets...maybe ignore cul-de-sacs all together.

Just to say: I would like a speed hump on the road in front of my house.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Organic Farming

Here is an overview of some studies about good things related to organic farming.

I've a minor gripe related to lumping genetic engineering in with the rest of "conventional agriculture" as genetic engineering is borderline necessary if people want to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and it is mostly just selective breeding on a massively accelerated scale.

Aside from that, however, a lot of neat tidbits are bundled up in this little article along with one claim that really stands out:

There’s another benefit to switching to agro-ecology, but the benefit is more systemic: under pretty conservative assumptions, switching from conventional agriculture to organic agriculture in developing countries boosts productivity massively.

I can understand that the switch in certain places (i.e. those not well suited to corn belt developed conventional agriculture) could yield improved productivity. Overall, this statement is wildly misleading: if conventional agriculture was not far more productive in general it wouldn't be used (it is quite expensive), but there is no reference in to which "developing countries" and more importantly what is meant by the word "massively"--if this massive improvement only applies to farmland that currently yields 1% of global food production upping it to 2-5% (or really even 10%) that is a massive improvement that could have a huge local impact, but is really not meaningful on a global level.

The problem is that the bulk of the world's food production is guaranteed by conventional agriculture as practiced in the US, China, Canada, Russia, France...maybe Brazil and India fall in here, though conventional methods may not be as big a help there, and I know that India is in trouble precisely because they have been employing US style ag.

I wish I could dig up the link now, as it is from a rather knowledgeable farmer and discusses some of the downside of many/most farms going organic, because the biggest problem with everyone going organic is that it would result in the starvation of tens of millions to billions more than we experience now.

Organic farming is good, but organic farming is exactly what we had 100+ yrs ago in the world. It does not produce as much food, and it requires more labor to produce less (even with modern equipment). For our world to go back to organic farming today we would either need major changes in diet (e.g. way less meat for everyone, particularly Americans), or we will have to accept a global population drop due to much more starvation.

Of course, a callous person might go on to say that a global population reduction would be pretty good for the planet--as we need it--as well.

Beck is an Entertainer

Is kind of the jist of this Greenwald post I liked. Oh, and that the tea baggers are not really Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or left, or right, or remotely uniform in their beliefs beyond a general distrust of government.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Right Leaning Governing of a Left Leaning Nation

In an interview, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said:

What about Olympia Snowe?

I think the world of Olympia Snowe. She's got incredible courage, and the Republican leadership is brutal in the way they apply pressure. Much more so than the Democrats.

How so?

For example, when Clinton was elected president, and George Mitchell was majority leader, [Clinton] came to our Democratic Caucus, because he thought it would be nice to break bread with us. Mitchell told him he had to leave. They were part of different branches of government. And so Clinton and his Secret Service had to turn around and walk out. It was a historic moment. On the other side, there were very few caucuses that Dick Cheney didn't attend himself. That's why whether it's intelligence or environment or elsewhere, they [Republicans] bring the hammer down in a way Democrats aren't good at, which I'm sort of glad about.

The added emphasis is important for one reason: it means that Republicans accomplish more with less. They are doing very well to block legislation now despite being very much in the minority. Democrats never managed the same even with a 51-49 minority. Republicans when in a bare majority pushed through tons of legislation. Democrats with a very large majority are failing at that.

Now, philosophically, I agree with the Senator in that such harsh treatment of dissent is a bad idea. But in our two party system if only one party routinely pulls with all it's got, then that party will win far more than it should, and the country will in effect be governed more strongly by that side.

I do not believe that dissent should be squashed, and I enjoy discussion and differences of opinion. If I can't hold my view point up to criticism then maybe it is not terribly valid. If I can walk away from an argument without my opinion changed then I consider my personal position the stronger (note that this is based on underlying personal philosophy and not related to an inherent "right" and "wrong" side to any given debate).

However, I also want the U.S. government to be democratic and representative. Right now, with the dynamic Sen. Rockefeller described it is not, and until the GOP wants to engage in reasonable discourse, the only meaningful option is for Democrats to cut them out of the debate, and pull together to do whatever they, as a caucus want, until the Republicans realize that everyone is better served by thoughtful and forthright discussion.

Yes, the Review is Real

I got to this page and had a good laugh, but I thought it was fake. Then I went to the link to the NY Times review of the game. The reviewer either is stupid, was high, or is being so obtusely ironic, that the review would have found better footing in the New Yorker, which instead gets to mock.

This is Why Lunar Bases...

...are the lairs of choice for mad scientists who passed "Lairs 211: Location, Location, Location."

Friday, September 18, 2009


This is really just a Star Trek link for Michael. That link is complaining about another link where the writer is complaining about how sci-fi used to be just bashing aliens but is now getting all allegorical and shit.

Problem is (with the second link) that sci-fi is historically very much allegorical, and it is only more recently that blowing crap up was the primary directive of making a science fictiony film...probably starting with Star Wars.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just a Few Thoughts

Was reading this and this follow-up (and the first comment on that follow up is also worthwhile). Then went onto a different article (same basic topic). Followed up with a couple (not so racial) articles about the right's anger and its misplacement.

That's a lot of reading, but the sum total starts to get at what is a complex, somewhat disturbing, and very anti-democratic trend. But what I see as the most important part of this has to do with the coverage and attention to protests directed at Obama. Protests which are completely devoid of reason (or compassion); which are purely emotional, with that emotion being rage. So what I would like to know is: why this rage is driving the media?

After Bush was granted the White House by the Supreme Court in 2000, and then again in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, there was quite a bit (maybe as much or more) rage and anger on the left. I would argue that there was a hell of a lot more factual basis upon which to pin that anger (in the end Gore was proven to have won Florida; Iraq has been shown to be a huge waste of time and money and a diversion from actually tracking down Osama bin Laden...). The media throughout Jr's administration, however, was far more a champion of the administration position, and those angry protesters were by and large described as fringe and crazy, when even mentioned at all.

It is disturbing to me that the right wing is given far greater credibility than the left by our "liberal" media. People's perceptions are altered by this strange dynamic, just look at how the news organizations are perceived: MSNBC (with Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan) is frequently described as the equivalent of Fox news (which boasts no liberals) for the left but they are really a CNN for the left (left 1 to right 10: Fox is an 8.5, CNN a 6 MSNBC a 4).

Crazy left wing that called Bush Hitler and worse: largely ignored by media, denounced by liberal politicians and pundits.

Crazy right wing calling Obama Hitler and worse: displayed on tv/newspapers incessantly, and pandered to by conservative politicians and pundits.

Facts and common sense have a left wing bias.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Need to Read More Thoroughly:

The paper here. Basic conclusion seems to be that the US has an effective flat tax of 40% for income of ~$20k+.

Federal income taxes are nominally progressive, but state and local taxes are less so at best and often flat or even regressive, wage taxes are regressive, as are sales taxes and sin taxes and auto licensing and energy (e.g. gas) taxes. Property taxes are generally regressive, though could, in some locales, approach flat iff* the assessed value of properties owned within that locale are proportional to income.

I am more than willing to believe that overall taxes above some level are much closer to flat than the federal income tax would lead us to believe. I'm a little confused by some of the early numbers, but I think most of that goes down to the "marginal" tax rate (which is on the last dollar earned, not the sum total). I would like to see the total taxes integrated and calculated in dollars and percentages.

*iff = if and only if...bitches

18 is Old Enough

To vote, to die in a war, to be executed, to smoke, more than old enough to drive, but dear God, don't have a beer! I think the 21 drinking age is just idiotic. If I were king, I'd make drinking age 16 and driving age 18, but I'm not...and really, in the US it is hard to argue for an older driving age as driving is pretty much essential for a large fraction of our nation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ayn Rand

Overall this is a rather interesting read. I disagree fundamentally with the Randian philosophy, but still want to read Atlas Shrugged. I won't pay for it, however. It'll be a library book (supported by taxes).

Really though, Ayn Rand is a cult more than actual philosophy. Disagreement and discussion are not allowed, and real evidence which contradicts her precepts is ignored. Ayn Rand's "philosophy" is "intelligent design" (creationism) for economics.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wal-Mart: Evil?

I don't much care for Wal-Mart. This article doesn't help. My general sense has been that Sam Walton and his surviving family are greed personified. I know that every person is somewhat selfish and greedy, but the extent to which they demonstrate those traits is reprehensible.

Only point I want to make about the article: the comparison to GM is false. While GM employees are generally non-professionals, many are still skilled workers. Wal-Mart workers are both non-professional and unskilled, so with no significant training and no education required anyone can work there. It's hard to unionize when anyone can be hired to replace any given worker. Anyone. Still, I think that Wal-Mart should be unionized. I generally feel that any company with a large workforce (say >1000 employees)--particularly if that workforce is predominantly non-professionals--should be unionized.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Interesting Point But...

Ezra points out that Bush didn't really get everything he wanted, especially on the domestic policy front. And he is correct. I am particularly pleased about the failure to privatize social security, and rather galled by the failure to pass immigration reform (possibly the only issue that I was in agreement with Bush's stated policy).

But no administration does. The take home from the Bush admin--and really every administration--is that victory was and should be 50+1 votes in the Senate, where the +1 is the VP vote. Why we have some bizarre notion of needing 60 votes, and then a few republicans for everything is beyond me. They should be working for the best legislation that they can pass, and that is legislation that will get 50 votes in the Senate (and pass the house). They may need to either break a filibuster or go through some other rule that circumvents filibusters to do so, but there is no reason to get remotely excited about having 63 votes with 4 GOP senators instead of 50 votes with 1 GOP and several opposed conservative Dems.

Passed legislation is passed legislation. As it is, people think about Bush getting what he wanted, not the bickering and little back and forths on how the legislation got passed and how much it was altered before that. The lesson is to pass as much as you can, and use whatever process you need to get there. Also Bush didn't pre-compromise with his bills. The equivalent would be Obama sending single payer to the floor and ending up with a very strong reform. As it is the starting point is already seriously watered down.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

It Makes Me Ill

I cannot, for the life of me figure out why the hell there is not a major investigation into the atrocities committed during the Bush administration. Greenwald discusses why the effete DC media personalities are opposed (dday has a few choice words as well). Why the hell would the Obama administration be so?

The more that comes out the more our present administration looks weak and indifferent to the rule of law. It's like they don't actually care if laws were broken or if people can get away with torture and murder because of some bizarre notion that it is more politically expedient to look the other way.

Horseshit. I just found my damn issue. If there are not prosecutions, I will not vote for Obama in 2012, and if my Senators and US Rep follow the present Obama tack, I will not vote for them either. That likely won't mean voting for Republicans, I can't much stand them either, but as of now, I at least have more respect for them--I disagree with their principles, but at least they demonstrate some. Most likely this would mean my staying home next election day, after all, if no one I vote for is going to represent me on such an important issue (the government should obey the law and be held accountable when it does not) why the hell should I bother?

Right now, I'm not even sure that worse wouldn't be better. I may not survive whatever catastrophic world the GOP would bring in, but I wouldn't have to live through this shit either.

Hyperbolic? Yea, but giving a damn just makes me feel like crap, so until government shows some ability to function, I don't think I want to.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Organic Foods: eh?

I don't entirely understand the huge organic push. Washing fruits and vegetables can be a pain, but the primary difference between organic and non-organic celery is that the latter is more apt to have something besides dirt on the outside (say a chemical fertilizer or pesticide). For people who never wash their fruits and veggies, going organic will mean less consumption of those chemicals, and is probably a good thing. Is it worth paying 1.5-3X the cost for something that can be mitigated by washing? Not to me.

Internal differences could be a strong argument for organic. Unfortunately, going organic doesn't actually improve the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables (study--sorry not free, counter, info on whether antioxidants are relevant). Meat and dairy are a different matter. Hormone free is probably still a good thing, particularly if young children are consuming it, and I am quite partial to dairy that is not ultra-pasteurized. Most mass produced milk (and cheese) is ultra-pasteurized, which produces less flavorful dairy products and reduces/eliminates enzymatic activity. Most pasteurized dairy is also hormone free (and organic), so it's generally win-win.

Now, organic farming may be better for the environment (though that is not terribly easy to answer), and it may have heretofore unknown health benefits, but mostly people who are emphatic about going organic either have something to gain (organic farmers, Whole Foods) or want to feel somewhat better about themselves. The latter category is populated with a fair amount of wealthier people who generally destroy the planet by overconsumption like living in 3000+ sq ft houses, and flying and driving more than average, and buying more new things.

Most people can't afford to go organic, and there is no reason yet to believe they would be better off if they did. They'd mostly just be poorer.

Monday, August 31, 2009


"4 am," he said out loud. Then laid back down astride oddly placed pillows; his sheets in bunches.

He had gone to bed at 11 and now was waiting for some semblance of the fatigue he felt turning hie eyes red to drive his brain to shut itself down. Three and a half hours until he had to be up again, maybe another 15 minutes if he didn't wash more than his hair.

What was it this time? He couldn't even clearly remember. There was no focus left. He had spent the past six hours trying to clear the conversation and its repercussions from his head, and the mix of thought, video and fantasy he had driven himself to engage in to clear out the other thought had done nothing to help him sleep. It had confused things. He wondered if he should dig it up again.

"No use," he said as he sat up. Tears came to his eyes as he reconciled to say what he needed. He wouldn't call. Waking her up for this was not nice. She had work to and there was no sense in ruining both of their slumbers.

He sat down in front of the computer punching the monitor button to turn it on. The box didn't sleep. As the screen flickered to life he opened the document he had been working on for some time now. He would make little changes here and there now and then. Time for a new paragraph.

It seems to me as though my life has turned again for the worst. She hates me and is only staying with me until she can find someone better. She sounds exasperated when she says she loves me. She got off the phone and went to hook up with some guy. I know it...

It continued in such banal fashion for a while. Though he considered himself as such, he was not smart. No one would confuse his works with those of a competent writer. And yet, in five hours time, he would be the cause of salvation for the world as it would be...for the survivors.

Martin Trapper: the first person to die of the strange disease that would be named "Traps," and in whose tissue would be found an antiviral that stopped it. His girlfriend would die of the disease three hours after him. She had never cheated. She would have regretted not doing so if she had had a chance.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

No One Wants Rational Discourse

Rational discourse starts with concessions to the other person's viewpoints. This requires certain levels of validity to the opposing point of view and the ability of the holder of that viewpoint to recognize the same in mine/yours/the first person's/whatever.

Health care reform, pay equality, gay rights, taxation, abortion and more. People willing to have rational discourse on these issues are not the ones driving the debate, and are also just too damned nice to the opposition thereby committing the grievous sin of being too boring for TV. As such, we will not see a rational discourse on any of these. Ever.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Came home from work tonight and Sixteen Candles was on some channel. It struck me that if this movie were to be made today that Molly Ringwald would never be cast. A more recent comparable movie would be She's All That...with Rachel Leigh Cook in the comparable role.

For some reason normal women are no longer allowed to be romantic leads.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

GOP Chair Michael Steele

Was on NPR this morning. It was like listening to a blind person describing shapes in the clouds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


US students are behind in science and math! I'm not kidding!

Studies like this are entertaining, sometimes informative, but often dubious. In this case, while math--I think--we can use as a good benchmark for educational assessment, science is a lot harder. The evidence is that we don't do very well with science education here, but I'm not convinced we are worse than other places. Our universities provide science education to much of the world, and we tend to educate in a different fashion than many other nations (more emphasis on understanding rather than memorization). On the other hand, politically, we have one major party that has become far more hostile to science than can be found anywhere else.

One problem with determining science education, is that it is particularly hard to assess early on (and 15 really is early on). You can't really learn physics until you learn calculus and most US students don't learn calc until they are 17-19 (and too many never do). Bio without chemistry is mostly an exercise in memorization, which doesn't mean understanding, and is not, in my opinion, a good indication of quality education, but is the only real measure that can be used for 15 year olds.

I've commented on some of this before, so that's enough for now (unless I feel like adding later). The more peculiar part of the article was when it is proposed that a possible remedy is to pay science/math teachers more. The National Education Association (NEA) disagrees saying, "Simply being a teacher of a hard-to-staff subject does not equate with effective instruction, and therefore, should not be rewarded in-and-of-itself through a salary differential."

I understand why the NEA would take that position. The idea that one teacher is worth more than another simply because of the subject they teach does seem a bit offensive. Unfortunately it is the way that the world, and particularly the US works. By and large, science majors have far more, and far more lucrative options available to them than do history, English or language majors. Ignoring the quality or significance of a subject, the simple competition would mean that science/math majors can expect more money for their degree, and if teaching refuses that, then they will get disproportionately fewer and poorer science/math teachers.

There are certainly plenty of highly capable and qualified people who go into teaching despite it's rather pathetic compensation, but they are the exception, and not sufficient to fill the ranks of teachers, especially in areas where good paying jobs are more prevalent (like science).

Now, I think that almost all teachers should be paid more, and I would love it if art teachers got the same compensation as biology, but, really, that is not fair. If we don't start paying science and math teachers more than we do now, then schools will continue to be understaffed in those departments.


This started after seeing this as a statement about the death penalty and the emotion that keeps it in existence, then it got really serious, so I reworked it... A couple months later, and now Sen Kennedy has died and it again seems apropos so I'll go ahead and post it. It is not complete but is sufficient for now.

Life and death is always a heavy topic. On a pulled back, big picture view of things, no one person makes a sufficiently significant impact that their absence would create a vacuum. To look to individuals who have made large impacts in our history is somewhat misleading, as we cannot see the world as it could have been without them, and while it is possible if not likely that no other would have filled the role, it would not, as we would know it, matter.

But we do not judge life in such a grand view fashion. We judge life as the value of those closest to us--that is, we say life is invaluable. We react with horror to the deaths of complete strangers because we put ourselves in the situation. We imagine if a friend, lover, parent, or child had suffered such a fate and we empathize. The more easily we can imagine a particular tragic event, the more strongly we will associate. Most Americans will not ever know the suffering that comes from being unable to get drinking water, and so the millions of lives lost to that are foreign. Hunger is similar in our inability to relate. On the other end most Americans either have flown or had a close friend or family member fly, so when a plane goes down we are more involved, we want to know what happened so we can feel safe from something that could happen to us.

This goes a long way to explaining why billions of dollars are spent in making air travel safer, but only a handful of us send a few bucks a year to help provide clean water to others in the world.

Death is part of life. We are curious and terrified. We wish to see it but be hidden and protected from it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Really Don't Like Politics

It is insanely frustrating for anyone who actually thinks. Republicans have turned themselves into the party of idiot rule. Democrats have for some time been the party of terrified lemmings.

I had hoped that large majorities in congress and the first president who could truly claim a mandate in about 20 years might change some things. It hasn't happened, and that is becoming more frustrating than anything. For a fair synopsis of what is fucked up about how the Democrats running things right now read Greenwald.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


John Ensign is the Nevada Republican Senator who was having an affair with a staff member (who, with her husband was even sharing the house with John and his wife). He seems to think that his affair, and the $96k payoff to his mistress and all the other crap is not nearly as bad as Clinton's blowjob, and that's because, as he says: "I haven't done anything legally wrong."

Apparently in the point of view of the values police (i.e. much of the GOP) legally wrong is the greater evil. Therefore it is much more acceptable to cheat on your spouse and maybe ruin a marriage or two than it is to drive over the speed limit.

Glad we're clear on that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Science is Hard

Facts are fairly easy things (not for the MSM and Republicans, but eh...).

Science deals largely with facts.

Science is hard.

There are two primary reasons for this: lots of required background and complexity of interpretation of results.

As an initial aside: there is a largely philosophical [scientific] notion that facts are not so easy. This has to do at some level with uncertainty, but even beyond that, with the fact that most scientific facts are obtained under the premise that one or many established theories are correct. Scientists, by and large, do not have much of an issue with this, and aside from playing games, there is no reason to call obtained data something other than a fact. So I'll be pretty much ignoring this...

While there is quite a bit of science that is accessible to the masses, it is really mostly old. The latest science, and that which is most impacting our present/future in complex and highly debated fashion, is not. Climate change is a perfect example, and new energy tech is also here. It is difficult because you need to have a strong science background to understand it, and even then, if your background is outside of the area of expertise then you may be hard pressed. For example: I have a conceptual understanding of relativity, but I can not do the general and special relativity corrections necessary for GPS calculations.

Standing on the shoulders of giants sounds easy, but you have to climb up there first. That means education and most of the non-scientist population don't bother. There is a phenomenal amount of science out there. Some is interrelated, some is not, but everything that is happening today in science happens on top of a broad base, that is commonly understood within science but largely ignored outside of it. Let's have a quick look at how this works in energy tech and climate...

In energy tech, most if not all people have heard of solar cells, and most of those people understand that they produce electrical power from [sun]light. Only a very small number--possibly a majority of scientists, though not likely--really understand how they work, however, and only a very small subset of that group really understand the challenges of using solar as a major energy source, and within that group are many pockets working on ways to improve different aspects of solar energy collection who only have detailed knowledge of their own projects and a few others that are related.
Global climate history is gathered as detailed in tree rings, ice cores and geologic strata. There is a fair amount of understanding of climate history, but the cause and effect nature, the interrelation between different areas and aspects, and extrapolation to possible futures is an immensely complex problem. It is a problem which scientists have been engaging in and refining only in the past few decades. In large part this part of the work is recent because it was virtually impossible without computers. The nature of development in the field is such that current knowledge and understanding is orders of magnitude better than that of 20+ years ago. Despite this, many naysayers point to research from the 70's as a counter. Research done in the 70's is about as relevant to climate change as research done in the 1800's is to evolution (when Darwin was alive, but before we knew about DNA), that is, it is important, but too much was not yet understood. It could be that 10-30 years from now we will say the same thing about our current understanding, but we have to do with the best we know, and 70's climate research isn't that.

Those couple of examples represent quite a bit of science that is available but not commonly understood, yet they still don't even begin to demonstrate any expertise on either issue. Actual, expert scientific debate is incomprehensible to most and therefore boring and not TV worthy. As such, most of the public science debate in this country is between political pundits and/or crusaders who haven't got the background to be relevant, but who are making the noise and are picked up by the media. Unfortunately, since most of the public is also insufficiently well educated, it sounds to too many like real debate. It isn't.

The other point, and the reason that science is hard is that, even when one has the proper background, is that interpretation of results and extrapolation are not trivial problems. Multiple iterations, many different experimental comparisons are helpful, but even still, general consensus can be hard to come by, especially when multiple scientists are working the same problem from different angles. Ego--not in short supply among top scientists--makes resolving differences harder still.

Differences of opinion bordering on arguments between two scientists who are both terribly well educated and also likely leaders in a field, are not just beyond the understanding of the general public, but often beyond the understanding of the general scientific community. The notion of "teaching the debate" sounds nice, but as a PhD in the field is necessary just to understand the framework on which a scientific debate is held, it really is quite ludicrous. But these differences of opinion occur, and quite regularly.

Science is a constantly growing and shifting body of work and ideas. The generally poor science knowledge of the general public means that much important science has become an article of faith for many. When something is a question of belief rather than fact, then the boundaries become fuzzy and arguments and "ideas" that do not qualify can begin to seem as credible as real science to those who don't understand what science really is.

People believe in DNA because very few have seen or understand the evidence that proves its existence. The good news is that most people still have more faith in science and scientists than they do in financial service employees, or politicians. The bad news is that they have faith and not understanding, and it is being eroded.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Not Shopping at Whole Foods Anymore

I was a bit excited when I moved to my new place that there was a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods in biking distance (~2 miles) from me. Won't be shopping at Whole Foods anymore.

I don't mind that their CEO is a false-talking-point-spewing, jackass conservative (lots of CEOs are) as much as I mind that he decided to use his position to show the entire company as holding the same view. The only reason that anyone gives a damn about what John Mackey thinks is because he is CEO of Whole Foods. You know, where all those (us) dirty fucking hippies shop.

Smart business to alienate the lion's share of your customers. Yes, I'm sure that plenty of conservatives--like those lords and masters of Wall Street--also shop there, but there's only so many over priced organic cucumbers they can go through in a week.

Quick point by point retort to big John's 8 reforms:

1. Stupid - high deductable insurance discurages people from doing things like routine checkups and serious problems are less likely to be caught early, when they are easier (cheaper) to fix. HSA's are an inadequate fix.

2. Stupid - tax breaks should be reduced or eliminated not compounded, particularly in such a way that companies will have less incentive to provide for their employees, the result would be fewer people without insurance.

3. Eh - sounds good but where these have been rolled back so far the result has been worse insurance for people, and less real competition, not more. Basically leads to mega insurance co.'s like AIG. Just think: more companies that are "too big to fail," we all know how swimmingly that worked.

4. Stupid - means more exceptions, and worse coverage...and more uninsured and more bankrupted and more government footing the bill.

5. Good idea...maybe - needs details, and really hard to figure out how to do fairly, but it could result in substantial savings.

6. Eh - what the hell good would this actually do? People don't have sufficient understanding of medicine or its costs to make an informed decision. e.g. Checkups are actually more profitable than insanely expensive MRI tests, because there is no $20+ million instrument to pay for.

7. Again, good idea but no details. Also, this is part of the total Obama plan, so for him to put it here as a counter is kind of, well, Stupid.

8. Stupid - Americans are charitable, but this is just an idiotic statement, to believe this you must first believe that charity has eliminated hunger and homelessness and oh, wait, nevermind...

So he makes lots of stupid (though likely quite profitable) points, a couple that are maybe not stupid, but neither are they good, one good point that is already part of Obama's plan (as stated) and finally one good point that is not part of Obama's plan (afaik), of course he doesn't actually have any meaningful insight to offer on it. And this ignores the rest of his heartless idiocy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Asinine Deficit Argument

This is kind of a follow up to the last comment on the previous post. The popular excuse heard by those who howl about Obama, but say it has nothing to do with his being black, is just that they have been increasingly fed up with government [spending] for a long time and Obama is making it worse. The problem, of course, is that this is a BS statement.

Many of those who are barking mad about Obama voted for Bush (see chart, and this article) who is far more responsible for our deficit, and voted for McCain, who (based on his campaign promises of more irresponsible tax cuts and no meaningful spending cuts) would have made it worse than Obama has or will.

Our country is where it is--deficits, wasteful spending, energy issues--in very large part due to Bush and Republicans. Now that Democrats want to make sure the poor in this country can get adequate access to health care, and that no one will need to bankrupt themselves because of an illness, people are howling mad.

Ignore the war. Ignore the dumb-ass tax cuts. Ignore the Wall Street cronyism (which, to be fair, is being continued by the Obama administration). Ignore the oil and coal industries' dominance of energy policy. Yea, blame the black guy. Say he isn't American. Call him a closet Muslim. Say he is like the Nazis. Make up shit about death panels. Bark at the Moon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

There is no Health Reform Debate

To say otherwise is nonsense. The right is shouting lies at town hall meetings. The left is being almost completely ignored (which is always the case on this issue) and the middle is actually dictating this bill, and pandering more to the slobbering mad insurance companies.

I read through the comments on this post recently. There is hardly more than a scrap of sense or reason shown by the more conservative posters, and the only more liberal statement that actually receives a semi-thoughtful counter response is one that hints at racism.

I'm rather inclined to agree with Patrick on the whole, including his three points as to why the insanity, though I think he would be better off not mentioning them due to the reactionary (somewhat reasonably so) response to insinuating that a fair amount of dissent to this health care reform is due to it coming from a black president.

I don't think that a lot of the people who don't want health care reform give two shakes what color our president is. I do think, however, that the howling raging protesters, with nazi signs and the like would not be present if our pinko-liberal president also happened to be white.

There is a whole mess of crazy that is getting too much press coverage, that is very different from what we saw when Clinton (who received a much smaller fraction of the popular vote) was in office. Obama's policies are not very liberal, no matter his personal views, so the most reasonable conclusion to the vitriol is that it is because he is black.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Distopia >> Utopia

Of course it makes sense that a dystopian future is better for books and movies than a utopian one, afterall, books and movies need to be interesting.

But a dystopia is better for us in real life than a utopia would be. If reality were ever to achieve a state of perfection then there would be nothing left for us to strive for or against. There would be no need for creativity or development or wonder. Nothing left to achieve or learn. Perfection would invite death from wasting away.

No, give me dystopia. A future society of 10 billion that cannot be sustained and leads to (human) catastrophe. A global event (disease, comet, hunger) that would leave survivors in a position to prove themselves. To rise above, to keep their minds and hearts against the savage vagaries of the life laid bare before them.

Odds are I will not live to see that, and that even were I to be able to I would not be one to survive that which would bring it about. But make no mistake, it is coming. It could be hundreds or even thousands of years off, but the future is not our present, and no matter what greatness lies in wait, it must come as a result of or lead to turmoil.

And that's my happy thought for the weekend.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Binary Thought

I'm a geek and I have great appreciation for the alacrity of binary logic. Every response is a 1 or a 0, yes or no, true or false, right or wrong. Unfortunately for the real world life is not binary. Infinity exists between 0 and 1, and "maybe" can answer more questions more completely than all of the other one-word responses above combined.

As a people, however, we prefer binary. We use almost exclusively. This is not for appreciation of the Socratic method which employed binary logic to deliberately yield absurd results (like valor is evil), but for ignorance of its demonstration of binary logic's fallacy.

Considering how old this logical constraint is, I am tempted to say that it is part of human nature. We seek to explain things by reducing even complex problems to a series of binary questions and answers. Binary thinking does remarkably well in fields like science: "What happens if I do the same thing but raise the temperature by 10 degrees C?" It isn't so good when it comes to things like health care reform, which seems to play out as free market or socialism, no matter what the actual reform proposed is or what the status quo is.

Testing is [almost] always binary. Multiple choice is no less binary than true/false, it just has different probabilities of a random choice being correct. Even less inherently binary testing like short answer or essay often boil down to a series of binary responses: you get 2 points for including this bit, 3 for this other, 5 for the big one, and maybe another point for spelling/grammar/complete sentences.

Binary thought is not necessarily simple. It's root is to hold on to one thought and compare another. The better answer between those two is then compared with a third and so on. Awareness of complexity means that after checking and finding '[a < b < c]' we would have to check a vs c and if we find that c < a we have a problem. The continuation is to determine the quality of the various less and greater than's in similar one to one comparison. This is the equivalent of making a list of advantages and disadvantages. The length of the list is important, but there is quality assigned to each as well. All of this can produce very complex logic, that is binary in its base nature.

It seems to me that things are too often reduced from the complex expanded binary problem to the simple binary question. This is particularly true in politics and on television where sensationalism and soundbites are the standard operating practice. I don't know that our attention spans have actually shortened as much as it has been that the arrival of abbreviated media, specifically computers and the internet, that has made it easier for us to demand quick definite responses. I don't deny that science has played a part in this. People expect answers to questions, particularly science questions e.g. those concerning global warming. We believe that there is an answer to anything and when that answer is less than clear, then many people become frustrated to the point that they can even believe false answers (global warming doesn't exist), or at least believe that people are hiding the real answers for some devious reason.

Binary thinking is perfectly acceptable so long as people are aware of the underlying complexity. Expecting simple answers to complex questions/problems is bad, and has become more apparent if not more common.

Regina Spektor

I think she's a cutie...maybe a bit unconventionally so, and it could be largely due to her voice, but still. Anyway, I don't have the new album, but heard this on the radio yesterday evening:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Uh, oh...

I know I've said similar things here before, but now it's in a Time article. So, you know, it must be true.

It is actually fairly detailed, and pulls in references to several different areas of research that show the same thing (most of them items that have been in the news in the past year). Short and long is: weight (fat) loss is when total calories consumed is less than the total burned. Exercise makes us hungry, so we eat more. It is noted in the article that people eat more than strictly necessary to offset the calories burned, and that, moreover, the exercise may depress other activity throughout the day.

I would guess that the former phenomenon is due to speed: when we are hungry we tend to eat faster, which can lead to eating more as we outrun the signals that would say we've been sated. The latter, I'm not entirely sure I buy. I suppose it depends on how extreme the exercise is. I do sit more still when I have done a hard workout, but I also move more briskly the next day. I am more bouncy when I have exercised the evening before, rather than less, and I feel better rested as well. This could mean that I have had a more restful sleep that was more still than normal and burned fewer calories, or it could be because the increased metabolism is showing itself, or it could be mental: exercise leads to less guilt which makes me feel brighter and more energetic.

Really, though, there is a reason that it is DIET and exercise. That first word is important. You can lose weight (fat) without exercise, but not without diet. No matter how much one exercises it is possible to eat more to offset. The body must burn calories to survive, however, so an appropriate diet can always lead to consuming less than the body burns.

It is hard to know how many calories we actually burn or how many calories we really eat. Friday breakfast at work means I may eat a couple donuts, half a muffin and a bagel with cream cheese. My normal breakfast is a bowl of cereal with some fruit or a pb&j on toast. I've no idea what the calorie difference is, but I know that if I take an extra long walk with my dog and do half an hour of weights it will offset some portion of that.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Hate Crime Laws

Richard Cohen doesn't seem to think them a good idea. Of course he is using specific examples to argue against a broad law. Kind of like saying that teaching kids "i before e..." is useless by pointing out the word "weird." I may not entirely disagree, but specifics are a bad way to determine the efficacy of a general rule/law.

In terms of killings and assault/battery, hate crimes probably don't do a whole hell of a lot. But think about someone burning a cross or painting a racial epithet on someone's sidewalk/door. That, in the absence of its terror inducing effect on a particular group of people, is a rather mild crime (provided the fire doesn't get out of hand). It's vandalism, maybe trespassing, and may not cause any noteworthy physical damage...and it is terrifying. Of course this is a specific as well. So let's back out.

We have freedom of speech (and of thought) even when that speech is hateful. But we also have a grant of fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When any action (including speech) infringes upon another's fundamental rights, it becomes illegal. Hate crimes that are confined in such a way so that the crime cannot be expected to have a broad affect on other's fundamental rights, should not be prosecuted as such.

There are actions, however, that do not break any laws yet which by their nature are intended to deny (generally through fear) others' their right to the pursuit of happiness if not their right to liberty. This is true of various white supremacist groups along with others, like anti-abortion protesters.

The conflict between freedom of speech and all Americans' fundamental rights is not so easy to overcome as to hurl out an example or two and say that they show how bad an idea hate crime laws are.

Monday, August 03, 2009

OMFG: Green Energy: Not Entirely Green!

While I think that it's pretty damned obvious that no matter how "green" any energy tech is it won't be (can't be) perfect, it is news to CNN.

The entire of green energy is really about which is better. And if the grouse community believes that mining and burning coal for power in Wyoming is better than windmills, then they should push back against wind farms, but I think they are out of their minds.

Of course, they are really no different than me on at least one regard: looking for something to complain about in a presented solution rather than actually having a solution.

(Well, I guess I'm complaining about their complaining rather than about a proposed solution, and I do tend to offer my own preferences/solutions when I do complain about a proposed one, but that all requires understanding nuance and that's hard.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thank Goodness I Am Not An Aspiring Writer

I love to write. This blog, more than anything else, is testament to that, and it is hardly the only writing I do. It is among the less thoughtful and more abbreviated (sometimes) writing, and so aside from email it is the most frequent.

This writing is my venting, my cathartic release. While it is keyed such that I don't mind anyone reading it, it is not posted with the notion that anyone will. I'm not trying to catch a break or pick up followers or do anything else other than box in my thoughts. To give them structure and see whether they make as much sense to me as the feelings that stirred them. Often they do, sometimes they don't. I am often amused by going back and rereading something only to find that I disagree with myself at the time. More often I find that what I have written is not really a fair representation of the whole of my thoughts, but a small portion siphoned off that was jumping around actively for some particular reason.

This is preamble to my saying that this little op-ed is an interesting read. It is not entirely related.

I am...

Through the process of reading various "About Me" pages, and trying to encapsulate my own self into the sectioned off headings with character limits, and having other self descriptions sent me, I have come to the sad conclusion that there is little that a person can put there that will be an adequate description of anything, though they can be wonderful conversation starters.

One can not effectively define oneself absent some already understood definition. If someone describes him or herself as "inetligent," it probably says more about the person than if he/she had described him/herself as "intelligent," but what exactly? Is the person being ironic? stupid? careless? With the wealth of spell checking out there, including in web browsers, you almost have to go out of your way to misspell common words.

More, to take the above example, intelligence is a difficult thing to self-ascribe. I'm a pretty damn thoughtful and knowledgeable individual, but I do hesitate when it comes to saying anything about my intelligence. We use that word as a measure of one's mental prowess against another, and how can I claim that my own mechanism of thought combined with my particular knowledge is greater than others? Still, in the end I would describe myself as intelligent, but the inner conflict regarding that is invisible. Are other more confident in their statement of their own intelligence and does that make them more or less intelligent, and should I care?

The category that seems most frustrating to me is about passions. To me it seems, passion is what gets us out of bed in the morning, it is the source of drive behind many if not most of our waking actions. While many different things can qualify, being passionate about "life in general" is not really possible.

*this is being posted incomplete a week after the date...future edits possible but unlikely.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Twitter ≠ Blog ≠ Newspaper

There are good and bad newspapers. There are highly researched, informative blogs that are every bit as good if not better than many newspapers/journalists. There are informative twitter threads. None of these are not the same as any other.

For most people a blog is more akin to a journal. They maybe read by a few more people, but they are not the equivalent of a newspaper. Twitter is more akin to chatting or txting (and is used as such) than it is to anything else.

So this article raises my ire a bit. Neverminding the idiocy of suing someone to make far more public a comment that would otherwise have been read by a tiny number of people, or that, even if they are correct about the mold issue they look worse as a result of this (I wonder if the decision to sue was run by marketing), the real issue I have with the article is that any internet published set of words could even conceivably be held to the same or similar standards as journalism.

Yes, I know, it would be nice if all journalists would be held to the same standards as some blogs out there, but still...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Food Animal Cruelty

For some reason I seem to be seeing more about this of late. I read one thing on how to humanely kill/cook lobster, that also dealt with the humanity of how we cook shellfish (mostly by boiling them alive). There also seems to be a lot now on feed lots and how inhumanely chickens are treated in the run up to being delicious.

On the one hand, there are serious issues associated with most of the protein part of our food consumption. Cattle are voracious eaters. It takes a monstrous amount of land and crops (and energy) to raise cattle to the point where we slaughter them. Feed lots are breeding grounds for disease so the animals are all pumped full of antibiotics as a precaution which aids in the production of resistant strains. Many fisheries are strained and many farmed fish types are environmentally or ecologically troublesome.

That said, the notion of humanity in how we kill, butcher and cook food animals always strikes me as odd. Animals consumed by other animals in the wild don't draw this ire (Dear God, those lions didn't use any anesthetic before killing that gazelle and it took the poor creature minutes to die!). In more impoverished nations, larger animals are often bled to death, whereas here, they are killed quickly with a slug fired by pneumatic action into their skull. None of it sounds pretty or nice, but these animals are food and we are omnivores. It is certainly possible to get complete nutrition without eating animal flesh, but it is a fair bit more difficult. No flora can provide complete protein (on its own) and lots of good fatty acids are also harder to come by.

It is really only wealthy people with too much time on their hands who can afford the luxury of worrying about this. The attitudes they subject others to seem condescending to me (and likely others). The idea that we should care to treat pigs and chickens with the same level of humanity that we treat other people is insulting, particularly when one considers that we don't actually treat other people all that well. If we had rid the world of war, violence, hunger and poverty then maybe I could sympathize with people who felt compelled to make sure that, in the unlikely event that crustaceans can experience pain on some level comparable to us (they can't***) that they were executed in a fashion that would cause less suffering. But we don't live in that world and these people seem to me to mostly have severely out of whack priorities.

I do think that people should be given a better appreciation of where food comes from. It would be a good idea for schools to have field trips to farms, fisheries and slaughterhouses, particularly more urban (and suburban) kids who are less likely to get exposed to such things. I also think that overconsumption of meat is a problem, and I don't eat a whole lot of it myself (lots of fruit and veggies and grains). The amount of farmland, water, and energy it takes to produce meat is
insane, and going full vegetarian really is a green thing to do. It also takes more discipline and meal planning (or supplements).

But, hey, meat is tasty, and there is no valid (rational) reason to ditch it entirely. For the environmentally conscious there are more and more meats that are produced in a sustainable fashion. They cost a little more, but if you reduce the total amount, there is no reason that total food costs should go up.

I feel compelled to wrap up here by saying I do believe animal abuse is wrong and should be criminally punished. I have a dog, and I love my dog, and I will do a hell of a lot more than is purely reasonable to spare her pain and suffering, but she is not a person. It does not bother me in the slightest that there are peoples in the world who would and do eat dog meat. There are shades of gray here, but my main issue is when these issues are extended from pets and more intelligent creatures to rats, rabbits, and other lower thought order animals used for science and for food. I appreciate the notion that our actions toward those creatures beneath us are reflective of our character, but I also appreciate the need for food (animal protein) and scientific advancement and those lab and food animals are not people. (I'm not sure that I'm a whole lot more compassionate toward some people, but for the pain issue, this is a very valid point.)


Pain is a biological deterrent to actions that could result in the death or incapacitation of an organism. Something "hurts" so we learn to avoid that [action, location, thing]. But for us, the larger aspect of physical pain is emotional trauma and resulting empathy. We react with horror to the idea of being boiled alive, because we have experienced burns and see that as a decidedly painful and traumatic way to go.

It is only our ability for higher order thought and emotion, however, that produces this feeling. Only animals with some ability to form similar higher order thoughts--to extrapolate pain and anguish from the smaller amounts previously experienced and to empathize with the feelings of others--could really be said to be able to experience pain as we perceive it. This pretty much restricts it to primates and likely some other mammals.

The absence of that higher order central nervous system means our empathies are falsely placed. Maybe their response is more akin to when someone turns on a light when in a dark room. Some reflex that is not processed emotionally. We don't really know, nor can we, and our pathological need to project our feelings and emotions onto, not only other humans, but other and much lesser organisms is pathetic, and downright insulting to the real suffering experienced by millions of human beings on this planet.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stating the Obvious but...

Of course geeks make the best boyfriends/spouses! My favorite is #7, and I certainly agree with reason #1, though I'm a bit surprised it's there. There are, of course, other reasons that are not listed, and most geeks also have the good-companion beta male personality (for full discussion read "A Dirty Job").

Geek is a word that tends to refer to specific things like computers, sci fi, anime, and science/math. It is really more general than that, though. Geeks are people who, for reasons passing the understanding of others, love to discover things, and challenge and complexity in that pursuit are enticing things. Male geeks, as such, treasure women (who will have them) above all else. We will never figure you out, but we love to try.

There is, to be fair, a bit of objectivity to that. Of course, geeks tend to objectify all people along similar lines, so it is not inherently sexist. And experimentation--from the kitchen to the bedroom--is not something that everyone is going to enjoy, after all, they don't all produce good results, they just all teach us a little more.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


This link has quite a bit of good, honest discussion, with an acknowledgment of the complexity of the issue. I think I've pointed out in the past here, that I think it should be legalized, and heavily taxed (also probably regulated for potency).

I do want to say that Norm Stamper starting out with "Any law disobeyed by more than 100 million Americans [...] is bad public policy," is really not true. That statement could equally be applied to speed limits. The number is not irrelevant, but its primary relevance is for different reasons: 100 million people who have not paid a dime in taxes on a product that could easily be taxed at if not above cigarette levels, is a huge amount of dollars.

What I really wonder, however, is if it were legalized and all the tobacco companies started selling and marketing marijuana cigarettes, what would the result be in terms of public support and laws? It seems that aside from the libertarians a large fraction of the pro-legalization group are also pro-anti-smoking (laws). That is a conflict. Smoking tobacco is bad for you. Smoking marijuana is also bad for you--maybe less bad, maybe worse. There may be benefits to smoking pot, and there may be benefits to smoking cigarettes (nicotine may help to maintain brain function). It's pretty damn hard to imagine that inhaling the smoke from any smoldering leaf is going to produce a net benefit.

I have a feeling that if marijuana is ever made legal it will in short order demand the same bad reputation (and restrictions) as tobacco. This wouldn't be entirely fair, as hemp has many uses as a cash crop besides drying and smoking, but it seems likely. I doubt if people would be any more ok with having pot smoke drift into their section of a restaurant than cigarette smoke. (The restaurants would love having patrons toking and getting the munchies right there.)

There is a rather bizarre tendency in this country to make laws as either fixes to small problems or to establish good morality/behavior. Smokers (and dog owners) seem to bear a large fraction of the brunt. For example: because we don't want to step on dog poop we make owners pick it up, and that is almost always with plastic bags that then go into a trash can and something that could have served as fertilizer for a patch of flora is now destined to sit in a landfill for decades if not centuries or longer.

Cigarettes are bad, so we tax the hell out of them and restrict where people can use them. I am really curious to find out what would happen if pot were legal.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Great Fucking Study

I read about this on Mon or Tues after my dog decided to undercut me while I was stepping up onto my deck causing a fall that resulted in a couple bruises, several scrapes and various levels of swearing...which must have made me feel better.

Just Saluting Those About to Rock:


(Not sure why AC/DC is on the brain; it is a rather abrupt transition from Regina Spektor, who was was there earlier).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Drink Makers Hitting the Airwaves

I saw a commercial yesterday that starts out with a lie about taxes not making things better or some nonsense that too damn many people believe, then goes on to advise people to let their congress critters know that taxing soda and juice boxes is robbing them of little pleasures or some shit.

First (well, second I guess) sodas and juice boxes are not seen as simple pleasures to most people, they are seen as standard beverages, you know, like water. I'll add coffee, real juice, milk and beer to beverages that fit into that category. Wine and spirits somewhat less so. The problem with sodas and fake juice is that people drink it like water, and not like some inexpensive pleasure (or affordable luxury).

Third, the tax is highly unlikely to make much of a dent in sales. If the price of a case of Pepsi doubled, sales would go down, if it goes up by a 10% tax, then "eh?" and it could simply shift them over to slightly different beverages made by the same frigging company that are not taxed (I don't know if diet versions are part of this). This is because of the way people see these. If people stop buying soda for money reasons it's to save $5, not the extra 50 cents.

On an somewhat related note, I think that bottles (plastic and glass) and cans should have deposits on them in PA like they do in so many other states...I think it should be substantial too like a quarter per. At the common 5 cents, a case yields just over $1, at 25, that would be $6. People would pay attention then, you just return the next time you buy. I also think that it should only be fully returned for cans, 20 cents back for glass and 15 cents for plastic.

CNN Quick Votes

They almost always fail to have enough options. At the least adding a "Maybe" or "Don't know" to a yes/no question should be the default but every once in a while they provide a gem like:
Janet Jackson: Should she raise Michael Jackson’s kids?
That really needs a "Why the fuck are you polling the public on this?" response. It isn't even a question of "who cares?" but who even cares about the opinions of those who care about this? Normally I click on the results tab because I am curious about the results to a bad set of options for an online poll. In this case, I'm not even a little curious which is preferred by those that vote and I'm too frightened to find out how many [people] think their opinion on this should be recorded.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Agree With Eugene Robinson

The whole article is here.
Republicans' outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor's musings about how her identity as a "wise Latina" might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any "identity" -- black, brown, female, gay, whatever -- has to be judged against this supposedly "objective" standard.
White male is an identity. It is an insanely overrepresented identity in the United States government at the federal level. Many historic rulings are testament to that (persistence of slavery, Jim Crow laws, women's lack of suffrage). That predominantly/exclusively white male courts have overcome their bias on occasion to rule in favor of the oppressed, the underrepresented, the minority, is to their credit, but those are landmark rulings because they are rare, they are exceptions (as the recent Ricci case proves the rule: white interest wins again).

For all the bitching about empathy and activism and quotas coming from white male politicians (Republicans all) you'd think we were a repressed minority. We're not. We are also not really able to represent those different than us any more than any other individual in any other group.

I'd like to think that I would do a pretty good job if given the opportunity to represent others (I have no desire to pursue that, but, hey, I'm sane), but the fact is that I could really only do a very good job of representing the real views and interests of the well educated, of scientists, of lower middle to middle class. I would do a piss poor job of representing the trust fund wealthy. I would do a horrible job of representing religious fundamentalists. I would do a crap job of representing many major corporations, and I would probably, frankly, not do the best job of representing the poor. Now I could still do a better job than most politicians (they are at the federal level far more wealthy than am I), but I lack a true appreciation for what it is like to grow up very poor, or in a crime infested area, or black, or Hispanic, or a woman.

Politicians repeatedly try and speak for those for whom they can't. I tend to believe that class and education (and probably gender) are a bigger predictor of one's point of view than race/ethnicity, but it isn't that simple. Even if those are more important in the later setting of viewpoints, physical characteristics, and racial/ethnic/gender identity are not insignificant. We see our own potential through the achievement of those with whom we identify. Our first blush ability to identify is based on appearance. As we grow, and hopefully become wiser, we come to know that appearance is not the critical component, but in those formative years, when opinions and direction are initially forming, appearance is what we have to go on, and we see our potential not in education but in people who look like us.

So while things like quotas do not necessarily produce the best immediate results, they would most likely prove successful,
in the long term, at enabling all the diversity and our society to recognize their fullest potential. Of course the long term gain vs. short term, well, issues, question is not one that is easily resolved. That which would most benefit our nation two, three generations or more down the road will have a negative impact on a particular group of people: white men. So long as white men dominate the political landscape things are likely to change only very slowly. Maybe good for me, but not for any other group in the country, and probably not for the country as a whole.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Apple: Determined to Control Everything

On the one hand, I can see why Apple doesn't want the negative publicity associated with people using iphone apps for porn, but when you hear from a company rep: "Apple will not distribute applications that contain inappropriate content, such as pornography," one must wonder if they realize that they include a web browser WITH THE PHONE. Is Apple the location of the last people in the country who are not aware of the internet and what it contains?

Or are they not aware of sexting or of the fact that people (mostly younger types) use cell phones to take naked pics then send them to others via email or mmtext?

Apple is holding back the tide of immorality. Just like China. People having access to naked pictures is so bad that upon the hint of it, there are CNN articles for god's sake. Next up: not-unlockable preinstalled net nanny. "No visiting porn sites on your iPhone young man." "You know that stuff will make your screen go black, right?"

The level of control that Apple insists on having over this crap is insane. They should either not allow 3rd part apps, or should only screen for damaging apps (like, say, viruses) but otherwise allow anything legal. I feel quite compelled to break out my phone and do a google image search on "boobies" right now.

Note: the article indicates that at least one of the images is of an underage woman, and while I've no problem with prosecuting the individual(s) responsible, it really isn't Apple's fault or responsibility. Of course, the more they restrict the more responsible they become. And if they had known and not stopped it...