January 18, 2008

200th Post

Yes, it's official. Post #200. Let the wide eyed crazy talk continue. And The Bedfordhillsian's 1 year mark is coming up too. This can only mean one thing - it's time for the ultimate cop out, the retrospective. Think of it as the DVD commentary that no one ever asked for but got anyway. Looking back, I must admit that I haven't set out to do anything in particular with this blog (as a quick reading should make evident). I've been using the format as an outlet to practice my writing, record interesting thoughts and facts, and express myself in general. There are a few themes that I seem to be developing that I'd like to share and some links to my favorite posts.

1. Dreams
First off, I've been recording some of my more interesting dreams. I started doing this when I had a particularly crazy dream about Janet Reno.

2. My Glasses
I've tried to keep the personal stuff to a minimum because I don't want my blog to become overrun with stories about my cats. Bad enough that I have so many damn stories about my glasses.

3. History
I love history. The worst thing to ever happen to history is when someone decided to try and teach it but instead developed a subject of intellectual weight best used for crushing the spirit of the young. Whether it's an obscure letter from George Washington to the Continental Congress or the ever popular, the Opium Wars, I spend considerable time digging into the dirty dust bunny corners of history.

4. Science, Politics and the Media
I like to tell people that I don't believe in science but that's only partly true. I've spent many posts exploring issues related to what I don't like to call the philosophy of science. In my mind, I generally lump science, politics and the media together because I usually feel like some kind of old kook when I hear other people talk about these topics. You know the kook I mean. The guy in the movie who thinks outside the box, predicts the imminent disaster, and somehow is the first one to be killed by the rampaging dinosaur/volcano/angry mob. But, I have to call um like I see um.

5. Other Contributors
Some other Bedfordhillsians also post from time to time. My brothers diggs and Premier Keith Kumar and my friend recon have chimed in a few times.

6. Interactive Bits
The caption contests and other attempts at collaboration speak for themselves. Hilarity ensues.

7. Random
Throw in the obligatory Britney rant, a juxtaposition of L Ron Hubbard with Dick Cheney, some futurism, and you've got yourself a blog.

Bill of State Rights

In 1833 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Barron v. Baltimore that the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, were applicable only in protecting citizens from actions of the federal government. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the people of the United States established the US constitution for their government, not for the government of the individual states.

-From Mass Media Law by Pember and Calvert (07-08 ed.)

Strange that I never heard of that before. The application of the Bill of Rights to state governments seems to have been established almost 100 years after the founding of the country by way of the 14th amendment and it's statement that no state can infringe on its citizen's liberties of which the liberties granted in the Bill of Rights is presumed to include.

People jaw so much about the US constitution in this country that they forget all about their state constitution. I'm sure my brother knows a lot more about it than I do.

One Hell of an Endorsement

As part of her arts mangagment graduate scheme, my girlfriend has to analyze the iconography of an image or video for short paper. I suggested that a Mike Huckabee ad would be rich with religious subtleties, and make for a fun paper. In her search she found the BEST POLITICAL AD I HAVE EVER SEEN. I pretty much disagree with most Huckabee's message, although it is always reassuring when a candidate with low media coverage and even lower campaign dollars can win an early primary state.

But after watching this endorsement, I think I may have to change my ranking of the candidates. Try not to duck at the end.

January 17, 2008

Car Horn

S answered the phone with "Honk Honk"* today. For some reason, she thought that I was the one calling her and used a greeting that surely would have amused me. The fact that the person calling turned out to be someone from the bagel place calling to let her know that she left her debit card there ends up being even more amusing.

In conclusion, let me share an embarrassing thing about me losing something for the sake of balance.

I lost my damn glasses. I've been looking for them for weeks. I've been wracking my brain but to no avail.

Found 'um.

*For more on "Honk Honk", see the comments of this previous post, The Proof is in the Pudding.

January 16, 2008

The City Pulse

The City Pulse, Lansing's own weekly newspaper, published a great article about an MSU college hate group this week. It's worth a read if you have a few minutes.

I really don't want to give this group any more attention than is necessary but here's one little irony that I just can't hold back. The leader of the group shields his actions behind the mantle of free speech while silencing members under the guise of a "media strategy" that aims to "Prevent all dissent" and states to members that "You cannot apologize for anything [we have] done, cannot say bad things about [our leader], cannot say that [we are] divided on any issues and cannot say that we need to do things in a better way".

Actually, a lot of people contextualize the group in terms of free speech instead of in terms of hate and intolerance. In my opinion, this is a disservice to the concept of free speech.

January 15, 2008

Biking the Orient

Last night I had a dream that I was in a Japanese velodrome translating Chinese announcements into English for American tourists. As an added bonus, the stuff that the announcer was saying had nothing to do with bicycling but consisted mainly of cake making directions.

That's how I roll when I'm sleeping.

(map of major velodromes in Japan via velo steve on flickr via google earth)

January 13, 2008

Comparing Candidates

The primaries are coming up (for those of you not in New Hamp or Iowa) and it's time for those of us who have been purposely avoiding as much of the gossip that passes for political coverage as possible to think about voting. or not voting. As a quick aside, I'd like to recommend that everyone who plans on not voting to not vote by going to your polling station and turning in an empty ballot. If you're going to not vote, might as well make it official. Shake things up. Also, a big apology to you non-United Statesians out there for exposing you to the generally distastful inner workings of American "democracy."

In order to make the process a bit more fun, lots of interactive internet surveys have been popping up that allow you to compare your own views to those of the candidates. I'll share my favorites with you. You'll find a whole pile of them if you google "presidential match quiz."

The first is called the votematcher from speakout and it's the quickest and easiest one. Change.org also has their own very similar version called the presidential matchmaker. Choose whether you support or oppose certain issues and the quiz will show you the extent to which you agree with certain candidates. They haven't yet removed some of the candidates like Bill Richardson who've already dropped out but otherwise it's a pretty good quiz. You can look further into what the candidates have done to establish their positions once the quiz is tabulated.

Michigan public radio also has a quiz that's a bit more detailed. You have to choose from specific policies.

The third quiz takes a bit more time so I recommend only using it to evaluate only your favorite 5 candidates or so. It takes quotes from the candidates and asks you which you agree with.

These quizes should help to narrow down the field for you so you can spend your time focusing on the two to three candidates you like. Here are my results in case you were wondering.

Quiz 1: Kucinich - 93%; Gravel - 80%; Clinton - 78%; and way at the bottom Romney 8%; Hunter 5%.

Quiz 2: Kucinich - 15; Clinton, Edwards and Gravel - 11; Hunter, McCain, Romney and Thompson - 1.

Quiz 2: Kucinich - 10 issues; Edwards 9 issues; and at the bottom Giuliani - 1 issue.

Three guesses who I plan on voting for. I was actually surprised at how well the internet figured out the candidate I like.

Sweet Prince

Prince Valiant just a achieved the milestone of 3700 Sunday strips. Huzzah! It's one of the few syndicated strips that I read regularly. As far as I'm concerned, Val with one hand tied behind his back can take on Judge Parker, and Rex Morgan MD and still win the right to be called master of the realist narrative comic strip.

I have to admit that in high school I thought that sitting down to enjoy a good Prince Valiant was the squarest activity in which one could engage. Now, I seem to have settled down in a nice condo in squaresville with my blog, my glasses and my pipe that I smoke while reading the Sunday paper.

January 11, 2008

Movie and Music

I went to the movies the other day for the first time in awhile. S and I saw Juno and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I knew that Kimya's music was in the movie but I didn't realize that the music was the movie. Kinda weird. The theater was packed. Double weird.

January 8, 2008

Poetry to Shake Your Fist at

Vladimir Mayakovsky was futurist Russian poet who lived and wrote during early socialist/Soviet Russian. From most accounts, the man was a blunt womanizing bully of a poet yet somehow his talent made him endearing. He's even been called the "raging bull of Russian poetry." Irving Well tells a story about how once when Mayakovsky was asked to sign a visitor's book he threw it on the floor and stomped on it with his muddy boot as a signature.

As you may have guessed, he's responsible for the ostentatious yet simple visual above. It's a support poster for the socialists and the translation (from wikipedia) is as follows:
1. Do you want to conquer coldness?
2. Do you want to conquer hunger?
3. Do you want to eat?
4. Do you want to drink?
Hurry up to join the strike team of exemplary labor.

The just don't make um like they used to. The story gets even better though. Mayakovsky wrote a poem about making this and other posters. The poem's title translates to: "AN EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE WHICH HAPPENED TO ME, VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY, ONE SUMMER IN THE COUNTRY." It's about how Mayakovsky is sitting around in his cottage, minding his own business, making Soviet propaganda posters. The ceiling has a hole that the sun shines through and upsets the hard working Mayakovsky. So, what does he do? He runs outside and yells to the sun:
"Hey, wait there!
Listen, golden brightbrow,
instead of vainly
setting in the air,
have tea with me
right now!"

And the sun comes down and has tea with him. The resulting converstation convinces the poet that the sun is not such a bad guy after all. Mayakovsky excuses the sun back up to the sky. This page has a translation of this and other poems by the Russian.

January 6, 2008

The Fabulous Filibuster

About one month ago, the current session of congress (the 110th), received the dubious honor of becoming the most filibusteringest congress of the last 30 or so years with an entire year left in the session. That's the equivalent of Barry Bonds hitting 70 home runs by the all star break in both the rate of record breaking and the amount of public hatred towards the record breakers.

The record is the direct result of obstructionism by the Republicans (expertly discussed in a pdf available for download and two Glen Greenwald columns here and here). These are the same Republicans, mind you, that stomped and cried and threatened the "nuclear option" of removing the filibuster because the Democrats threatened to block the nomination of a few judges.

Before you go accusing me of being a Democrat, let me just say this in my defense. The bills and amendments filibustered would have

1. Restored Habeas Corpus to before the Military Commissions Act (HR 1585 - S.AMDT.2022)
2. Increased support for renewable electricity
3. Reduced oil company subsidies
4. Given people in DC the right to vote (S 1257)
5. Reduced troop levels in Iraq
6. Voted to show No Confidence in Alberto Gonzales

All partisanship aside, those are things I would have liked to see happen.

I'm also bringing this up because the media is doing a piss poor job of covering the issue. Instead of discussing this issue as one of Republican obstruction, they simply say that 60 votes are now needed to pass Democratic legislation and that the Democrats are not delivering on their promises.

For an interesting take on minority and majority party politics check out Act 3 of This American Life episode 325.

January 3, 2008

Science Quiz

Hey, the scientist in me is not completely asleep. I fully expected not to pass this quiz but instead I did rather well.

JustSayHi - Science Quiz

I have to say that I think that the one physics question was a bit above 8th grade level in my opinion. I also don't remember studying so much earth science that early.

Try taking the test. It only takes a few minutes. Let me know how you do.

I've posed before about my misadventures in middle school science class and I don't want to misrepresent the extent to which I learned anything in 8th grade. As Kid Dammit has attested to in the comments, my ability to pass the aforementioned quiz has nothing to do with a year which mainly consisted of throwing paper clips and batteries and endurance contests between me and KD to see who could hold on to the leads of an electrical generator for longer while the other person frantically turned the power generating crank.

January 2, 2008

Happy New Year

I live in a college town, fifty thousand students and fifty thousand plain old town residents right next to each other. One of the odder aspects of this situation is how the town completely changes gears over winter and summer breaks.

In most places, New Year's Eve is one of the most happening times of the year. Here however, it feels a ghost town. Everything is closed and almost no one is out. A typical Thursday when school is in session has ten times the number of people walking around. This year there were a few isolated pockets of no coats* on the streets but only a token amount.

While I was going out for some pizza, I did see a hilarious no coat scene. Two drunken swaying short skirted girls standing in a half foot of snow by the side of the road. They were holding on to each other (presumably for balance) and they had such a look of bewilderment on their faces that I had to imaging that they were completely surprised as to how they came to be standing in a snow drift without any pants.

Maybe, I'm wrong to find that amusing. Maybe, that's just where the aliens dropped them off, or where the teleportation/time traveling device happened to put them. You know you've got to look your foxiest when being abducted, teleporting or time traveling.

I just remembered that there's more to the no coat New Year's Eve story. After driving by the lost snow drift girls, I wandered around a bit looking for a pizza place that was open. None of them were so I pulled into a Subway for a sandwich. As I'm pulling in, I spotted two guys walking on the sidewalk, one of them carrying an empty keg. Just as I noted to myself that one guy was wearing sandals, the guy with the keg slips on the ice and the keg bounces on the pavement right onto the sandaled guy's foot and ankle. He screams in pain then turns the scream into a forced laugh while his friend is picking himself up. Even though the keg was clearly empty, I was a little worried that he might have broken his foot but he just kept up his laugh/screaming, rubbed his foot and hobbled on down the street.

On my way out from Subway, I saw them walking back and that guy was only barely limping. As well that ends well I guess.

*No coats are what S and I call the girls that brave the rain, snow, sleet and freezing cold to go from club/bar to club/bar without any clothing designed to shield their skinny little arms from the weather. Typically seen lined up outside of popular club/bars in the dead of winter.