February 28, 2007

This Nerd has Glasses

yup. I got glasses. I didn't even know that there was something wrong with my eyes then I went to the old doctor. Then he tells me, I'm pretty nearsighted and I have an a-stick-ma-tism in my eyeballs.

February 23, 2007

Another Day at the Races

In case you couldn't tell, my earlier post about Dennis Kucinich was more about what his performance on Diane Reim's Show than him running for president. In the world of all seriousness, I've had it up to here with horse race media politics/media so far before the election that I could almost get a law degree by the time these people would take office. "Evidence?" I hear you intone. Here are some headlines I made up but can describe recent articles...

Some dude I've never heard of drops out of the race I hardly care about.

The opinions of most of these people are actually important in their current positions in congress but they're not really important unless they run for president.

This just in, Democrats want to win elections. Even one in the distant future.

Sadly, the list could just keep on going. What we really need are political trading cards complete with stats and goofy pictures. I'm holding on to my Obama rookie card.

February 22, 2007

Asian Invasion

Looks like Asia is up to her old tricks. This time global warming and ozone depletion. A Times article today states: As Asia Keeps Cool, Scientist Fear Warming. The paradox alluded to in the headline is that India and southern China are now buying more air conditioners than ever and many of them are not up to current ozone protecting standards of other countries.

I'm not saying that this isn't a problem but I don't think that the US media should be so quick to point the finger while their own government relaxes controls on pollutants and refuses to control carbon emissions. I also don't like the submerged jingoism that surrounds discussion of the economies of India and China these days. What I do like is the chance to use the word jingoism.

It may be hard to remember now but once upon a time the US economy was booming and in those days there wasn't much media talk about how a booming economy was in any way negative for anybody. Yet, today, the econmic success of Asia is generally described as a gathering storm.

In the article, you'll also find this sentence:

"An unusually cold Antarctic winter, rather than the rise in the use of refrigerants, may have caused the sudden expansion [of the ozone hole]..."

Now, we know who's really to blame. I say to the Times next time point the figure at the penguins and bury the Asian connection at the end of the article. But, you're not going to sell papers blaming those lovable tuxedoed birds. Not after all the great PR they got with that family friendly propoganda film that was March of the Penguins.

February 21, 2007

Six foot twenty

In like Manner, since our Imports of Spirit have become so precarious, nay impracticable, on Account of the Enemy's Fleet which infests our Whole Coast, I would beg leave to suggest the propriety of erecting Public Distilleries in different States. The benefits arising from the moderate use of strong Liquor, have been experienced in All Armies, and are not to be disputed. In the present situation of Affairs, Our Soldiery cannot obtain such supplies, as are absolutely necessary, and if they are fortunate enough to get any, it is from the Sutlers, at most extravagant rates and at such, as are incredible to tell of.
-George Washington

If you're anything like me, you just skipped that whole italicized section and started reading right here. Unfortunately for us all, that section is the whole point of this post so I'll paraphrase it for you lazy jerks:

Dear yet unborn United States,

Send money. The soldiers and I need alcohol. These turkeys you call citizens are ripping us off. Wouldn't it be great if alcohol was free. Get on it!!!
-Your pal GW

I didn't mean to bore the crap out of you with that but I think that the preceding section of a letter from good old George to the Continental Congress during the revolutionary war is fascinating. For one thing, impracticable is just a made up word (ed. note. impracticable not found in paraphrased version and impracticable is indeed a word). Also, what's with nationalizing liquor. No wonder ladies loved his gallant stroll. Damn drunken commies.

February 19, 2007

Add em Up

Hooray! Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House! It truly is a grand old flag!

Anyway, I'm a little tired of hearing about the first woman Speaker of the House as if this proves something about the power of women in this country. It should make us all realize that the fact that no female has risen to even this middling level position proves instead how slow progress has been. Pelosi
can now claim these glorious powers of the Speaker of the House for womanhood:

1. The ability to sit behind the president and blink during the state of the union address
2. The power to become the president if both the president and vice president die in rapid succession.

Past speakers of the house include such notable politicians as pretty much nobody. I think most people wouldn't even know Dennis Hastert's
name is it wasn't for the congressional page scandal.

Just to see how great it is to be a man at the top levels of the US Federal Government, check out these statistics:
Percent Male Representation
Congress - 84%
Senate - 84%
House - 84%
Executive - 100%
Cabinet level and above - 77%
Judicial - 89%

Apologies to James Polk and Henry Clay. You guys were grand and notable speakers.

February 18, 2007

Come on Get Snappy

Here's a great quote from an interview conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt (HH) with retired general William Odom (WO). Odom recently published an op-ed in The Washington Post advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

HH: Now General, you are a distinguished and long-serving member of the American military, in the Military Hall of Fame, you’re a Lt. General. I actually served alongside of you in the Reagan administration when you were running NSA. So I mean no disrespect by this next question.

WO: Yeah, you’re obviously going to call me a son of a bitch or something.

Awesome. Way to take the wind out the sails. You can read the whole interview here if you like.

A Question?

Here's a little self-test question you might want to answer for yourself:

Imagine you're looking to rent a room in your house and a friend of a friend comes buy to check it out. You know next to nothing about him and when he shows up you see that he's white. Do you think that that fact that he's white could have any effect on your decision to rent a room to him?

I was thinking about this question the other day mainly because there it seems awkward and even silly. But, here is a variation on the question:

when she shows up you see that she's black. Do you think that that fact that she's black could have any effect on your decision to rent a room to her?

If you replace the term white in the question with some other descriptor like black, female, gay, hispanic, handicapped, etc, the question undergoes a wonderful transformation from awkward to meaningfully appropriate. Default or "normal" characteristics (white, male, straight, adult) are tacitly assumed and not "interesting" to question while other characteristics outside the default settings bear attention. It is always important to mention when someone can be described in a way that is outside what is considered mainstream. This allows us to distinguish this person in our minds but in the act of making them an individual do we also isolate them in an unintended way?

Hootie and the Blowfish was billed by the media as a multi-racial band because it had a single black man in it.

This observation is almost too obvious to discuss but you'd be amazed how often it slips by unnoticed.

The concept of normative quality even more confused when it comes to gender because the normal quality of being male doesn't even apply to a majority of people. From the perspective of pure statistics it is more normal to be female than male. Yet, the same attention to the female as a unique non-normal state applies though. Look at the United States government for example. The government is thought to lack women instead having an overabundance of men. Ah, now, we're starting to make subtle distintions instead of this in your face "friend at the door" prejudice.

When talking about gender and gender differences the emphasis is placed on women and women's roles just like a serious discussion of race always include a section on blackness while whiteness and the qualities of white people are only discussed by comedians. Returning to gender and the government, we find that recent comments by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg are brought up by the media as the fact that there is only one woman on the Supreme court but too many men might be a better way to phrase the situation. That female representation in congress is growing could also be replaced with the comment that males have always dominated the legislature. Female colleges students are now in the majority instead of males being minority and so on.

February 13, 2007

DK for President (He's already the Mushroom Cup Champion)

Dennis Kucinich was on the Diane Rehm show today. That guy is awesome. He actually left in the middle of the interview to vote on the Senate floor. Diane seemed a little upset but that guy takes his job seriously. You can listed to the segment here. Go to the 11:00 segment on Tuesday February 13.

On the other hand, I have to oppose any show about presidential contenders 2 years in advance of the election. Slow down people, it's hardly even Yom Kippur and already the Hanukkah decorations are out.

Movie Franchises

After an evening's deliberation, I've decided that Toho's Godzilla gets my vote as the best movie franchise of all time. Harry Potter second. Oh, and the Toho's part is important since I choose not to include Tristar's bumbling remake.

Most people don't think of Godzilla when they think of movie franchises but consider this:
  • 28 movies
  • +50 years
  • 3 separate series of movies (Showa, Heisei, and Shinsei)
  • Unabated use of rubber suit technology in the face of CGI
  • UFO's and psychics consistently play supporting roles
  • Godzilla could either save the earth or destroy it or both
  • Godzilla fights like a 30 story pro wrestler.

Other people might go with one of those american hero franchises (Batman, Superman, Rocky, Spiderman, etc.) or Star Wars/Indiana Jones but to me they take themselves too seriously. Star Trek is real hit and miss. The Pink Pather is another fairly good set of movies but unfortunately it ended with Peter Sellers and also unfortunately more movies will come out (sorry Steve Martin).

February 12, 2007

The Skeptical PEAR

Apparently, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) is closing or moving or something like that. The lab studied the effects of consciousness on the world mainly through the use of random number generators. I think that the use of random number generators (also called random event generators) is an really brilliant device for measuring the effects of consciousness. Outside of PEAR, many other groups especially in Noetic science have been using them to great effect.

So, I've been listening to and reading media coverage of the PEAR closure and wincing. Most coverage takes relish in the opportunity to trot out references to spoon bending, voodoo, and new agey/drug culture. Every serious fact or comment must be followed up with a snicker possibly in the interest of balance.

One of my favorite ironies is how self-titled skeptics invoke the name of science to spread their belief (or in this case disbelief) in human consciousness. Denying your own existence is an amusing but difficult sell since literally no person ever experiences anything other than their own existence. But what does experience matter when you can get to truth directly using science. Also, according to many skeptics, scientific findings are only valid if they fit into a predetermined belief system of "the possible".

To help illustrate my point, here is a quote from a letter from Marcello Truzzi (founder of the Zetetic Scholar) to Douglas Hofstadter which can be found in Hofstadter's outstanding book, Metamagical Themas:

"The term 'skeptic' has become unfortunately equated with disbelief rather than its proper meaning of nonbelief ... I view [this type of skeptic] as obstructing inquiry because it has prejudged many areas of inquiry by labeling them pseudo-scientific prior to serious inquiry... [and] in its fervor to debunk, has tended to lump the
nonsense of the National Enquirer with serious scientific research programs".

I'm sure to bring up Metamagical Themas again in the future.

February 9, 2007


At my age, most people have long moved on from the place where they grew up and the friends they had as children. Yet, even though I've lived all over the country, my best friends are the same guys I knew before I could drive. This blog is a kind of dramatic reenactment the atmosphere I get staying up late thinking and talking about almost anything with my friends in Bedford Hills. So, I called it The Bedford Hillsian.