Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Republicans know a lot about terrorism

Well... at least some supporters of John McCain know a lot about how to cause terrorism. On Muslims. In Dayton, Ohio.

Via DailyKos:
On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West -- the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail -- were distributed by mail in Ohio, a "chemical irritant" was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers. This, apparently, is what the scare tactic political campaigning of John McCain's supporters has led to -- Americans perpetrating a terrorist attack against innocent children on American soil.
First of all... WTF!?! How is throwing chemical irritants into a Mosque when you know people are inside going to help your position in a fight of conscience? Were those who did it saying that all Muslims are evil, thus justifying their actions? Are the attacker-terrorists willing to go to jail for their actions? The story doesn't mention anything.

Secondly, if Mr. McCain wants to have any hope to be elected by decent human beings, he should immediately denounce this sort of action. He should let people know that, although the creators of the DVD have every right to say what they did in their production (since we have freedom of speech), acting out in violence after watching it is against the law. These people are not likely Obama supporters, and - by default (unless they are voting third party) - are closer allied with McCain. Is it wrong that I associate these people with McCain? No, since I'm not associatign McCain with these people (but rather the other way around, you see). However, since McCai is likely to be their presidential candidate baby, he should call them out on it and tell them how illegal and dangerous (to the moral fabric of our society) such actions are.

Thirdly, this DVD being circulated apparently has the full imprematur of the department of the Navy. If this is true, then we can have the Navy War College sued for damages? What about the Secretary of the Navy and the VP's office (since they are in charge of the Navy)?

Rush did too-good of a job

Rush Limbaugh is, among other things, [in]famous for coining the term "fami-nazi" and one might argue overthrowing the concept of "feminism" as an idea that men and women are equal. From Sociological Images: lisa briefly outlines how Rush's tactic really worked in the everyday discourse of what defines "feminism" in the United States today.

Of course, Rush is now a tragedy of his own success: in successfully and forcefully batting down the idea of feminism as the concept of "women = men" to "femi-nazi", he is now left in a struggle to equate Palin with "successful woman" without having people raise eyebrows over this connection (check out the video over at Sociological Images. His (and other right-wingers') arguments about how women (specifically Gov. Palin) should be treated with decency and respect, or without sexist ideas really is the height of irony, ranking right up there with Republican 'non-mavericks' having to support their 'maverick' candidate (who you might argue is only maverick in name, now that he is supporting the 'conventional' Republican president over this $700 billion bail-out).

I don't think Lou would like this finding.

Via PhysOrg:
Immigrants who seek a better life in Western countries may not be able to escape the influence of their home country when it comes to their children's academic performance, according to findings from the October issue of the American Sociological Review.
The research, which looked at the mathematical literacy scores of thousands of 15-year-old immigrants to 13 Western
nations from 35 different native countries, indicates that economic development and political conditions in an immigrant's home country impact the child's academic success in his or her destination country.
Counter-intuitively, immigrant children from countries with lower levels of economic development have better scholastic performance than comparable children who emigrate from countries with higher levels of economic development.

The study authors also analyzed the impact of policies and political conditions in destination countries. In
traditional immigrant-receiving countries such as Australia and New Zealand, they found that immigrant children academically outperformed their counterparts in other Western nations. The authors theorize that this finding is likely the result of restrictive immigration policies that ensure that better qualified adults emigrate (e.g., those with employment and high levels of education), rather than a receptive climate toward immigrants or education policies designed to meet their needs.

I really wonder what that anti-immigration CNN anchor, Lou Dobbs, would say about this. After continuously calling for bans on immigration and mass-deportation of immigrants, here is a small report showing that the children of immigrants outperform the home nation's children. We can't have that now, can we? I mean, we shouldn't allow for more competition in primary, secondary, and tertiary education! It would be unfair to nationals of the country! (boo-hoo.)

I recently was talking with my housemate on the issue of immigration-and-citizenship. He proposed that it would be a good idea of allowing a person to obtain citizenship in the US if they satisfactorily complete secondary school. I agreed with him to a point. I think that a person who successfully completes secondary school in four or five years (hey, many have to deal with a second language), then that student should be awarded a work visa once he or she turns eighteen.
What is "satisfactory"? Well, having a single nation-wide test of competency at graduation should provide an answer to what is "satisfactory." This effectively happens every year when thousands of teenagers take the SATs and SATIIs to get into university. I think that having something similar for all highschool graduates should provide an opportunity for immigrant highschoolers a chance to both get into universtity as well as a chance at a work permit in the United States. Then, if an immigrant successfully completes an undergraduate education (to use a parallel metric, they would take the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc.), then they should be allowed full citizenship. All this ties into the rhetoric that we (Americans) want to have competent workers, instead of incompetent ones; that we want immigrants to "play by the rules" (without many Americans knowing how difficult and counterproductive those rules are); and that these immigrants shouldn't "steal our jobs" (thus the provision of a work visa with satisfactory completion of a US highschool degree).

This would allow immigrants to be easily hired by employers without having the employer do all the paperwork necessary for hiring a non-citizen. This would allow a legal path to citizenship through scholarly achievement (as opposed to military or natal paths). Of course, I also think that this path would be a non-starter for so many Americans that it would never see the light of day as a bill in Congress ("You're going to give those illegals a work visa, just because they have a highschool degree? F**k that!"). Oh well, one can always dream of a better way than what we have now.

Walking is ... GOOD for you?

Wait. Hold on. Hold the phone. This is some crazy results:

"With childhood obesity expanding to epidemic proportions in the United States, educators, researchers and health practitioners are actively seeking to identify effective means of addressing this public-health crisis."
Well, I had hoped that this was the case... However, what do to when people constantly cite the diminished level of formal phys. ed. in schools (along with arts). Apparently, members at a conference at the University of Illinois called for integrating exercise with learning, such as going on walks to different areas of a city to help teach art and design or conduct physical activity to learn about biological energy transfer.
Chodzko-Zajko said the concept of integrating topics across the curriculum is not necessarily a new pedagogical idea. ... "If you talk to the pedagogy people, they say two things: Kids need physical education, where they learn motor skills and activities that are going to set them up to develop the competencies they need to be physically active. But they also need to know how to be regularly physically active.
I agree with the idea that this isn't new: I learned many things through "ambulatory learning" - observations in the field - like Socrates and Aristotle in ancient times. Of course, this was done in undergraduate and graduate school work. However, there were class projects in highschool that asked students to walk through their neighborhoods to create written "maps" of the place; provide observations of parks and thoroughfares; etc. It wasn't teaching us the mechanics of how to exercise, but it did tie non-physical education with physical activity; the one cannot really fully happen without the other.

The article goes into greater topics, but this seems to me to be an easy way to think about how to integrate learning with physical activity. Of course, there is always going to be the type of teacher who doesn't see "ambulatory learning" as a "proper" method of learning the material. The only thing that this sort of idea gives is a contempt of alternative methods; a contempt of physical activity in the pursuit of mental knowledge; and a lack of desire to explore the outdoors.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

David Letterman, McCain campaign suspension, Palin's competence

Last night, David Letterman questioned (five times, I believe) why McCain was suspending his campaign?

Well, Lawrence Lessig has a short (12 min) video showing exactly how much experience Sarah Palin has in comparison with other VP candidates in the past.

Maybe that's why, Dave. Maybe that's why.

Debates are still on.

Via the LA Times:
Two days before a widely anticipated presidential debate, John McCain said Wednesday he would skip the session and stay in Washington to work on the nation's financial crisis. Barack Obama ignored McCain's invitation to join him and said he would show up for the debate as planned.


Obama rejected McCain's call to suspend presidential politicking less than six weeks before election day. "It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess," Obama told reporters at a news conference in Florida. "It's going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once."


The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates and the University of Mississippi, host of the forum, also issued statements declaring their intention to proceed as planned. "We believe the public will be well-served by having the debates go forward as scheduled," the commission said in its statement. A spokesman declined to speculate on what would happen if only Obama showed up.
I suppose McCain has to show up now...

"African" and "African-American" - the distinction lies with the out-group.

Over at Dispatches, I saw an interesting comment by Squiddartha regarding a stupid comment by Rush Limbaugh:
My mother and I were both born in Africa, in what is now Namibia. I'm a natural-born US citizen, through my dad, and my mom is naturalized.
However, our German ancestry earns us funny looks if we try to claim to be "African-American." :P
Posted by: Squiddhartha | September 25, 2008 9:56 AM
My reply:

@ Squiddartha:

I had a maths lecturer who was from Rhodesia and fled with his family to the US during the revolution. People don't understand how a "white" person can be "African-American." On the minority status form, he is expected to mark "White", even though he was born in Africa, grew up there, studied at university there - and S. Africa - and held a job as a lecturer there for several years. Looking at people like him, I know that the distinction between "African-American" and "Black" is non-existent. If there were one, than Dan L's commentary on a distinction between "African-American" and "black" would be correct. However, I would argue that to many (many) people in this country:

"African-American" = "black" = "African-American".

Of course, since the 2000 census, people can now list two ethnicities; finally getting a chance to equally represent each parent's heritage on a government document. Finally, people who are not (and can never be) "White" can note down "White" as well as that ethnicity that defaults them off of "White" and into the other category - regardless of what "fellow members" in that category say. I'm a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian mutt. However, I am - by default in most people's eyes - "Asian". In the eyes of "real" Asians, I'm "not-Asian".

I know I'm being tangential, but Squiddartha raised what is - I believe - a good point. "African" and "African-American" as labels of a people still carries (in this country) the expectation that the person in question is somehow 'black'. Being descended from European lineage who live[d] in Africa, regardless of how long, seems (in this country) to classify you NOT as "African-American" (which would be the literal truth, if the person in question got US citizenship), but as "White". However, a person who has never been to Africa in his life, but may have been the descendants of African slaves (and quite possibly not exclusively so) is considered "African-American". Therefore, I have to disagree with Dan L's comment of a distinction in this country between "African-American" and "black." The distinction might be seen "within-group", but not held by those outside of it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Message from Secretary LOLson

Via Mike the Mad Biologist.

Economic crisis and campaign suspension

Obama on the bailout:

The main points from Obama's speech go as follows:
  • It is unreasonable to think that American taxpayers should pay $700 billion with no oversight or restrictions. The American people have every right for certain protections of their tax dollars.
  • Taxpayer dollars must not be used to reward Wall Street CEO bad behavior.
  • One man alone should not be allowed to decide how to spend $700 billion.
  • If taxpayers are asked to bail out Wall Street, they should be treated like investors of the companies.
  • The final decision must provide help to families struggling to stay in their homes.
  • People must understand that Congress knows about the emergency on Main St. as well as the one on Wall St.
There were more specific points embedded in each of those bullet-points, but those were the main headings.

McCain's response to the bailout:

Although not as organized as Obama's speech, McCain hit on several points.
  • McCain has met with economic advisors and members of Congress.
  • McCain will suspend his campaign tomorrow, and asks Obama to do the same.
  • McCain will call on President Bush to "convene a leadership meeting from both houses of Congress".
  • There needs to be bipartisanship.
  • McCain is confident that consensus will be reached before markets open on Monday.
  • McCain is asking that the debates be postponed.
The response that encourages confidence is the one from Obama: that he won't be suspending his campaign. That he has a multi-part plan to deal with the crisis now and in the future. That he is still in the campaign is some proof that he can multi-task, dealing with crises and keep to the task at hand at the same time (okay, that's redundant, but hey).

I like this hypothetical response from the Obama campaign (written up at Greg Laden's blog):
"The person we elect as president should be able to handle two important things, or more, at the same time. I'll be at the debate Friday evening, and I'll meet with the president as well. See you in Mississippi, John. Or not."
On a side note, Obama said "I", "me", or "myself" eleven times in his 6:16 speech (and the first was in the phrase "my-way-or-the-highway sort of politics"), whereas McCain said "I", "me", or "myself" seventeen times in 3:29 (I didn't count the number of times he said "we" and "our", since he used these words in many different contexts). That's a rate of 1.76 personal pronouns per minute for Obama (1.6 if you discount the my-way-or-the-highway comment about GWB), and 4.88 personal pronouns for McCain. I don't know what this means - probably nothing - but it was something that I noticed.

US sold out to China & Japan?

This morning, in the Detroit Free Press, I read an opinion piece from Tom Watkins. In it he discusses how the United States has sold out the American Dream to China and Japan - literally. It's the first time that I've read Mr. Watkins, but I agreed with many of the points he makes.
The Chinese government holds in excess of $1 trillion in U.S. securities. The Chinese fear the global economic slowdown being led by this country will stifle the jobs boom that has moved hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty and created the Chinese equivalent of the American dream.
America is hugely in hock to China and Japan, borrowing money from those countries to underwrite the escalating debt brought about by the Iraq war, cutting taxes while going on a spending spree, and being mired in the mortgage crisis. While the United States borrows and consumes, the Chinese are saving, building up their infrastructure and lending us money to continue our self-destructive behavior.
This figure - if accurate - is for the Chinese government alone. What might have started in the Clinton years as a means of coaxing China out of its security bubble with the Most Favored Nation trading status has - now - ended with that country holding roughly 1/13th monetary equivalent of the 2006 estimated GDP in US securities. I cannot find figures on how much Japan holds in US securities, but I'm going to guess that it's substantial. If it's roughly equivalent to China's, then my theoretical $2 trillion held in U.S. securities dwarfs the expected eventual $800 billion cost of the Iraq War, and the $700 billion bail-out of Wall Street. A little bit worrisome.

Tom goes on to describe the construction boom and economic 'miracle' that is happening in China, even in the far-flung regions that many Americans have never even heard of; the Topekas and Boises of China:
Earlier this year, I traveled 48 hours by rail from Beijing, the capital of China, to Lasha, Tibet. What did I see? Not just the $40 billion of Olympic infrastructure investment in Beijing, but bridges, roads, rail, hospitals and schools being built in the interior of the country (some with inferior construction, as we saw in the collapse of thousands of schools in the May earthquake in Sichuan that killed 70,000, including 10,000 schoolage children).
I spent days traveling along the old "silk route" in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where, in the middle of the desert, thousands of windmills and solar panels provide renewable energy to the people of Turpan and Urumchi. Yes, I know, you have never heard of these places, yet they are more advanced than we are when it comes to finding alternatives to fossil fuels.
China building windmills and solar plants? In their far-flung western regions so far from the bustling crowded cities of the East? What? China investing in its infrastructure? Pardon a small snort of derision for our current executive's decision of cut taxes, cut government services, halt government investment, and diminish regulation and oversight. What that has left us with is a country that is quickly running out of real capital to inject into the economy. The US is drowning in a mountain of debt that it has allowed to be created. Meanwhile, our debt-brokers - the Chinese - are using the interest payments from their loans to us (as well as their governmentally controlled economy and our direct investments in their country) to invest in their infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is the analogous to a savings account at a bank - it may not have a great return rate, but it creates a firm safety net for the future. (Of course, if the bank goes under... that's a different thing.)
As this financial crisis plays out, the questions remain. Will people on Main Street be viewed as worthy of a bailout or investment as Wall Street? Will Treasury Secretary Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Congress or the presidential candidates ensure that working men and women get relief? Or will it be, to paraphrase an old country song, Wall Street gets the gold mine and the rest of us get the shaft.
I'm a cynic. I say that we get the shaft, and many will be ignorant of the implications of that to say, "Thank you, can I please have some more?"

Tom doesn't discuss something that I think is looming on the horizon - although he does make a grazing connection with it in his opening paragraph: "Many have predicted that the 21st Century will be the Century of China. It seems that the jokers in charge of Wall Street and our federal regulators assigned to watch over "The Street" are attempting to speed up this prediction." The United States dollar might drop from its position as being the prime world benchmark currency, in favor for something else. If this happens, then more countries will peg their currencies to something other than the dollar, the US won't be able to build up more debt (out of no where), and the US government will have to start really tightening its belt on spending (you know: balancing its budgets - spending = taxation). This is already starting to happen with the Euro - mostly in European countries, but that may be spreading out further. If the debt rate of the United States rises past its ability to pay it off, then our economy will likely fall into a greater shit-heap as countries divest themselves of (to their perception) the over-pompous world policeman's economy for the up-and-coming Unified Europe (which has proven itself in international relations to be much more equitable and open for negotiations). Open day on the sale of US securities - if it comes - will be yet another legacy of this executive (although people will likely hang that albatross on the neck of whatever President is presiding at that time).

Finally, although I hate to quote T.S. Eliot twice in a month (since it will make me seem all doom-and-gloom):

This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but collapsed economy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First day of Autumn

And it's warm...

Response to a friend's blog.

From a friend's blog (password protected for some strange reason). This is my response to his post.
WHat I think they (want to) believe is the following: studying literature/the arts/philosophy makes you a better person. This is total baloney -see the some of the highly educated and tasteful SS
One could argue a counter-point by saying that the “highly educated and tasteful SS” were in charge of the “highly uneducated and tasteless SS”. So… education makes one a superior being…? No, but it is the basis (unfounded in objective characterizations) for Western higher education along both the British and German models, which were highly influential in the formation of U.S. education through the 18th and 19th centuries. It is something that I also rail against when I am faced with ivory-tower intellectuals that tell me with a straight face that humans are “more evolved” than other animals, or that other animals “spontaneously appear” in places they weren’t before. AND THEY GET AWAY WITH IT! (I won't get into why these ideas are a patently false representation of the world, but "bleaugh!")

Of course, many people in academia in the United States see many benefits of having a liberal arts education. However, being within a liberal arts education system means that you might be biased in your judgments of it (conflicts of interest, anyone?). I personally feel that - although there are possible personal benefits gained from having students learn a variety of subjects - not everyone wants to be a renaissance-man. I have had many seniors in a freshman class because they waited until the absolute last minute to fulfill their distribution requirements. On yet another hand (I'm like Kali here), if universities in the US wanted to ensure their students were well-rounded, why not require them to take their distributions prior to becoming an "upperclassman". It is my experience that integration of information happens best when the information is present prior to integration. Therefore, if students were expected to take those courses that will make them a well-rounded student prior to traveling down the road of specialization (which is - in itself - a paradox of the US system of higher ed) that is what should (imho) be the distinction of being an "upperclassman", they will be in a position from which they can ruminate upon their prior knowledge sources and critically think (or not) about how different epistemologies inform the different points-of-view the student will inevitably come across in their future studies.

(On a tangential note, I think that it’s great that we use the ‘murican way of spelling when talking about how something is “full of baloney”. Saying that something full of crap is “full of bologna” would just be plain weird.)
There’s a deeper point there too: the current study of literature has nothing to do with the current practice of medicine.
I would argue that it never really did before, either. Oh, wait. That’s your entry's point. My bad
Why should I even think it possible to assign a compassionate meaning to a text written by the guy who also penned (or parroted rather) Bagatelles, and whose life story is less than glorious in many aspects? What makes those med schools admissions committees people think that reading literature written by a brigand could make me any more of a good person?
First of all, that statement made me LOL. Who thought that a metacritique of literature would do that to me on a Monday morning? (However, that should read: “…less-than-glorious…” The “Napoleogrammaniac” strikes again; yes, I made that word up for the use against someone who needs the application of a French version of "grammar Nazi", and yes you can use it too!)
they don’t give a toss about mentioning medicine in their literary work, because that’s not the point. … As I’ve maintained throughout my research in the humanities, literature truly has nothing to do with the world.
For more of this check out these sites: Uncertain Principles, Adventures in Ethics, Gene Expression. They are written by scientists who have come across similar POVs, and discuss them from their own side. (Uncertain Principles was that which started the ball rolling in the discussion, but the other two expand on it nicely.)
I’m writing this as an attempt to use a much-taunted method of getting past ‘writer’s block’, the latter being defined as the inability to write what you’re supposed (that is: expected) to. I’m afraid it’s not working very well.
First of all, did you mean “taunted” as in “to make fun of in a manner of teasing” or “touted” as in “to try and sell-off, usually used by itself to describe a person from the 19th century and before, who was in charge of selling off the services of prostitutes and child laborers – of course I could be stretching this definition a bit). Secondly, if you want to check out a very accurate scientific, peer-reviewed paper on the subject of writer’s block, then check out this article (don’t worry, it’s very short and to-the-point). I'm thinking of doing a follow-up study myself...

Holy Cannoli!

It's like she only has one script!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Intelligence and being right.

Taken from Gene Expression:
The intelligent can be wrong very coherently. The intelligent can be right very coherently. The stupid can be wrong very incoherently. The stupid can be right very incoherently. The intelligent can do some stupid things very quickly. The stupid can do many stupid things very slowly. The intelligent are good at extrapolating, so they can assert the absurd rationally from absurd axioms. The unintelligent are not good at extrapolating, so they may reject the absurd from absurd axioms, despite acceding to absurd axioms because of their lack of inferential capacity.
This is an interesting commentary, seeming to build on the saying, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Palin and 20%

It's now slightly infamous. Sarah Palin said that she's an energy expert because she's the governor of a state that provides 20% of the United States' energy supply. Hm. No. According to Envirowonk:

The reality, provided by the oft-ignored Energy Information Agency? About 3.5 percent, all told. Alaska provides 14 percent of the crude oil produced in America, but that's not 20 percent of the US domestic energy supply, and in any case Alaska supplies only 4.8 percent of the oil suppied [sic] to the US. Did she mean natural gas? Nope; Alaska produces less than 2 percent of the US' total natural gas supply. However you slice the numbers, Alaska doesn't produce anywhere close to 20 percent of the domestic US supply of energy. Palin is wrong.
Hold on! Hold your horses! Wait just one sec! WOAH, WOAH, WOAH!

If you add the correct numbers together, you will indeed find that Palin was pretty close to being right. See, if you add together the percentages of the crude oil produced in the US, the oil supplied to the US, and the US total natural gas supply. If you do the math, then you get:

14% + 4.8% + 2% = 20.8%.

See? She was very close about her knowledge of energy in the US.

Unfortunately, this does mean that her units are about as consistent with each other as VenomFangX was when he did his own screwy-math.

Scientists create the world's thinnest balloon.

From PhysOrg:

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using a lump of graphite, a piece of Scotch tape and a silicon wafer, Cornell researchers have created a balloonlike membrane that is just one atom thick -- but strong enough to contain gases under several atmospheres of pressure without popping.

The research, by former Cornell graduate student Scott Bunch (now an assistant professor at the University of Colorado), Cornell professor of physics Paul McEuen and Cornell colleagues, could lead to a variety of new technologies -- from novel ways to image biological materials in solution to techniques for studying the movement of atoms or ions through microscopic holes.

The work was conducted at the National Science Foundation-supported Cornell Center for Materials Research and published in a recent issue of the journal Nano Letters.

To test the material's elasticity, the Cornell team deposited graphene on a wafer etched with holes, trapping gas inside graphene-sealed microchambers. They then created a pressure differential between the gas inside and outside the microchamber. With a tapping atomic force microscope, which measures the amount of deflecting force a tiny cantilever experiences as it scans nanometers over the membrane's surface, the researchers watched the graphene as it bulged in or out in response to pressure changes up to several atmospheres without breaking.

They also turned the membrane into a tiny drum, measuring its oscillation frequency at different pressures. They found that helium, the second-smallest element (and the smallest testable gas, since hydrogen atoms pair up as a gas), stays trapped behind a wall of graphene -- again, even under several atmospheres of pressure.

"When you work the numbers, you would expect that nothing would go through, so it's not a scientific surprise," said McEuen. "But it does tell you that the membrane is perfect" -- since even an atom-sized hole would allow the helium to escape easily.

Such a membrane could have all kinds of uses, he added. It could form a barrier in an aquarium-like setup, for example, allowing scientists to image biological materials in solution through a nearly invisible wall without subjecting the microscope to the wet environment. Or, researchers could poke atomic-sized holes in the membrane and use the system to study how single atoms or ions pass through the opening.


They haven't said anything about whether this application could be used in making the future condom. However, if it is impermeable to "nimble Helium atoms", then it must be impermeable to "hulking, lumbering sperm." Similarly, if it is capable of "containing gases under several atmospheres", then it should be capable of handling male ejaculate, I would expect. Since the membrane is only one atom thick, it shouldn't impede sensation, either. However, it leads to a few questions.
  1. How would a man know if he was actually wearing it, since it would not be able to be seen,
  2. How would a man be able to put it on without cutting himself,
  3. Would a man want to put on a nanomaterial condom, and
  4. Would a woman want to have a nanomaterial condom in her?  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The occasional silliness of branding.

So... watching Hardball right now, and their Republican punditer person saying that Obama was making fun of Palin using the lipstick comment, because Palin basically owned it once she mentioned "lipstick" in context of "hockey mom" and "bulldog". Therefore (I assume) the use of the term "lipstick" by anyone else is off limits.

This is about as stupid as people not being able to say anything like "rolling stone" or "moss" if Obama ever made a statement that his hair is as soft as moss (or something as stupid as the hockey mom joke). If he only does make that statement, then Obama can call foul whenever McCain says that Obama is not about change (since the phrase "rolling stone gathers no moss" refers to change, but if Obama says that his hair is like moss, then he can claim that the argument against change is a personal attack about his (Obama's) hair style). Hopefully, though, Obama won't do this... because: The stupid. It burns.

What exactly does "working across the aisle" mean?

This talk about "reaching across the aisle" is - in my opinion - a false argument. I just watched an interview with MN Gov Pawlenty on the MSNBC show Road to the Whitehouse. On it, Pawlenty criticized Obama for not reaching across the aisle on any single major issue. The only one that he cited Obama doing was on tracking down nuclear warheads, and (as Pawlenty said) that passed unanimously (with the implication that unanimous votes are not worthy of noting when you are trying to work across the aisle). Then he said that McCain crossed the aisle on (among other things) climate change and torture. Hmmm... So, Pawlenty said that everyone's for  tracking down nuclear warheads, so that's not and example of "working across the aisle". However climate change (which is only the largest threat to the security of our generation and future generations) and torture (something that we should be against no matter what) are two examples of McCain working across the aisle.

Ummm... So, when a Republican senator breaks ranks and does something ethical, that's called "crossing the aisle." When a Democrat doesn't have to side with Republicans to do something ethical, then that's "being partisan." There doesn't seem to be any analysis of quality of the working relationships. The main question that passed through my head was, "Why did Republicans vote against global warming and the future security of our country?" "Why did Republicans vote for torturing people that we don't even know in the first place are guilty of war crimes?"

Also, I haven't done any analysis of this, but it seems that much of the commentary of McCain's going "across the aisle" predate his most recent senate term. Pawlenty cited many instances three or more years ago when McCain worked "across the aisle." Then he says that Obama doesn't have that sort of record. Well... that's like me saying that Pawlenty's experience of being an American is outweighed by my father's experience. Which is a false statement, because the quality of the number of years for each man is different, and because the quantity of number of years is different. If they want to be compared, then they need to be standardized.


CFI on need for science, reason, and free inquiry.

McCain on Spain

In case you didn't hear this one... It is in many ways worse than referring to the non-existent "Czechoslovakia" or the "Iran-Pakistan border". It's not realizing that Spain is not in "our hemisphere" and is our ally in NATO.

This has lead to three major actions in the interwebs news media:
  1. The creation of witty headlines
  2. Statements in support of McCain
  3. Statements against McCain.
The first point presents quotes that usually riff on the song from My Fair Lady, "The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plains", however, one makes reference to that Monty Python sketch...

TIME Magazine: "The Pain in Spain Falls Mainly on McCain."
AOL News: "The Rain in Spain..."
The American Prospect: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Okay, so these are funny news headlines. But what about the content and context of the story. What exactly was the gaffe? According to The American Prospect, apparently, there was an "exchange between John McCain and a pool of Spanish-language reporters that has the Spanish press a bit confused, as McCain seemed to suggest that might not be willing to meet with Spanish Prime Minster José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, as though he might be a potential enemy."
Late Wednesday night, news made its way from the other side of the Atlantic that John McCain, in an interview with a Spanish outlet, had made a series of bizarre responses to a question regarding that country's prime minister. "Would you be willing to meet the head of our government, Mr. Zapatero?" the questioner asked, in an exchange now being reported by several Spanish outlets. McCain proceeded to launch into what appeared to be a boilerplate declaration about Mexico and Latin America--not Spain--pressing the need to stand up to world leaders who want to harm America. (via AOL News)
The American Prospect article cites two stances held by the Spanish media: that McCain just plain didn't know how Zapatero - the PM of the country from whom all the reporters asking him questions were from - which is the majority opinion and the minority feel that McCain has an anti-Spain agenda. Imho, if it is the former, then McCain has to bone up more on his foreign policy experience creds, since Spain is one of our allies in NATO, and after stating that he has a good working knowledge of Latin American leaders, mixing up Spain for a country in Latin America is a pretty big foot-in-mouth gaffe.
However, if it is the latter, then does it mean that we are in for some more of the same anti-European policies made so infamous by this current president?

There is one idea that I didn't see in the stories: the McCain was fatigued and wasn't really thinking straight. Of course, that idea opens up a can of worms that may be a difficult one to close: is he physically fit to be president of the United States - a position that is likely to be much more rigorous than the current campaigning he is doing - for a full four-year term (let alone two of them)? We have had three presidents die of "natural causes" in our history: William Henry Harrison (one month in office, died at 68), Zachary Taylor (sixteen months in office, died at 65), and Franklin Delanore Roosevelt (twelve years and one month, died at 63). True, medical science has improved since the 18th, 19th, and mid-20th centuries, but McCain will be 72 years old if he takes the office of the presidency in January. Statistically speaking (not taking into account his health history or the stresses of the office of the president), he apprently has a 14% chance of dying in office. If you look only at survival statistics for people who have had the types of melanoma McCain has had, then the chance dying is 40% (see from 1:43) and a 66% chance of re-occurring (see from 2:34 in previously linked video), which will put him out-of-commission for the period of treatment...

Okay... that's a bit of a tangent from Spain and McCain. However, my thinking is that if McCain is getting physcially ragged, thus causing to forget the leader of one of the EU's largest countries and one of the US's NATO allies, then I think that McCain's Spain gaffe and his health are related issues. However, you are free to disagree with me on that one. (Sometimes the connections aren't there.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

OMFG: humor, humor, humor (visualized)

Check this out. (It's a flow chart showing what people say during sex.)

SWPL: The Onion.

Okay, I'm not "white." I'm hapa. However, I read this blog. I agree some of these things. I agree with this one.
Before you begin hanging around with white people, you should know that all white humor comes from three sources: The Simpsons, Monty Python, and The Onion.  If you are not presently familiar with The Onion, you should visit TheOnion.com immediately as it is essential in your development and cultivation of white friendships.  If you are not familiar with The Onion, your conversations with white people will be boring, humorless, and unlikely to lead anywhere productive.

Before moving on, it’s important to know exactly what The Onion is and where it came from. The Onion is a satirical newspaper and website that was founded in Madison, Wisconsin - a very popular location for white people.  When the publication got more popular it moved to New York.  Since then it has produced a body of work that includes audio, video, and thousands of articles that entertain white people every single day of the year.

It is so popular, that every white person home contains at least one book from The Onion.  If that home is occupied exclusively by white men then said book will be located in the bathroom.  There are no exceptions.
At any given time a white person has 100-200 Onion headlines memorized and ready for deployment into a conversation.  In fact it is impossible to talk to a white person for more than one hour without hearing “that reminds me of the Onion article….”  In order to remain a viable part of that conversation it is essential that you are able to quickly suggest a related, but different, Onion article on a similar subject.  Doing so will show the white person that you are smart and have a good sense of humor.

As an institution, the Onion is beyond reproach for white people.  You should not imply that you don’t get it or that it’s not funny.  In fact, the only acceptable criticism for the Onion is that you are unable to work for them.  This is because every white male under 35 is convinced that they could and should be working for The Onion.

The Onion: where would we be without it?

Where would the world of so much cynicism and despair be without The Onion? Apart from a friend of mine who says that she doesn't care for onions - except when they are in French Onion Soup (boiled and rendered down to just their sweet flavorings), I personally find onions quite enlivening. And to paraphrase Shrek, "Onions have layers."

Anywho... did you ever get the feeling standing there at the supermarket checkout, gazing with mirrored eyes at the magazine rack in front of you, that you had, indeed, seen that particular "new" issue of Cosmopolitan magazine before? I mean, you are absolutely sure that the lead story - "How to sexually please your man" - was something that you had seen on a previous month's magazine? It makes you start to wonder how original these stories really are month-to-month.

Well, The Onion has done some investigation, and on their morning news show, they were able to bring in one of Cosmopolitan's head researchers into male sexual pleasure. In the clip, the history of male sexual pleasing (after all, many of the stories seem to be about that) is discussed.



A fantastically whimsical video of making "Western Spaghetti". Hat tip to Greg Laden. (I don't know where he gets the information allowing him to put together the menagerie of posts he puts up day-by-day. However, all I have to say is, "Don't stop."

Friday, September 12, 2008


Sometimes, the view of my other nation are strikingly refreshing. Although I sometimes bemoan some of the problems in Japan, you have to admit that the following is a breath of fresh air.

In Japan, the use of bicycles is quite high amongst the population. In response to this, there are many different models of bicycle - one to fit more utilitarian needs than going fast and smooth for long distances while you lose blood flow to your genitals (aka. a road bike) or being robust enough to handle rough downhill terrain and/or jumps (aka. a mountain bike). In Japan, many housewives need a bicycle that allows them to go to the store, pick up the kids, and generally get around during the day. Welcome to the "mamachari", a Japanese portmanteau of "Mama" and "charinko" ("charinko" is the older Japanese word for bicycle; the description below doesn't quite get this one right, but makes for a great mental image of a "mother's chariot").

h/t: Treehugger:
I confess - I own a mamachari. It is a really simple bicycle that you see all over Japan. Usually mothers use them for quick trips to the grocery store or to bring the kids to kindergarden. Thus the name, a combination of "mama" and "chariot". Nope, the mamachari is not particularly sexy, but it is easy to ride and always comes with a basket up front. Plus a baby seat. Or sometimes two babyseats: one up front and one in the back. When the government tried to ban the mamachari with two babyseats, mothers all over Japan protested in a massive campaign. The government had to back down (no kidding), and a discussion finally started about how this country should build more bikeroads.
These aren't really new things, either. When I was going to school in Japan (wa~ay back in the 1980s and early 1990s) I would see women riding these around my (rather residential) neighborhood. I would also see the occasional mamachari with an electric motor to provide the assist needed to get a bike with a full front basket of groceries as well as an elementary schooler in the rear up a 6% or 7% grade. These things aren't going to make any records in the traditional areas of performance, but if you include "carrying capacity" or "utility" among the factors counted, the mamachari will give road bikes and mountain bikes (hell, even my so-called hybrid bike) a run for their money!

Who thought that "drill baby drill" would be so... easy to mine?

I wrote about the phrase "drill baby drill" twice before. Greg Laden has an interesting take on that phrase, and some news about the Interior Department:

Boob ogling is not the only place where male power brokering and sexual politics play out. It turns out that when the crazy Republicans at the RNC were shouting "Drill Baby Drill" they were not merely making an inappropriate (for prime time) sexual reference about oil drilling, they were (inadvertently?) describing what Republican Appointed oil industry regulators are actually doing.
An Interior Department investigation describing a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" by workers at the agency that issues offshore drilling leases and collects royalties hit lawmakers Wednesday just as they prepared for votes next week on expanding offshore drilling. "On the eve of Congress starting this big debate you've got a horror story of mismanagement and misconduct in programs that are going to be a key part of the discussion," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in an interview, adding that it can't help but influence the debate.
We're talking about the Minerals and Management service of the Department of the Interior. Geologists. Almost as bad as archaeologists.
Now why couldn't I think of that connection?

Large Hadron Collider Rap

A while ago, I wrote about epMotion. Now there is the Large Hadron Collider Rap.

Robots, anime culture, and Japanese masculinity

Japan is - as many people have come to appreciate - a nation of odd extremes. At the same time having a very low violent crime rate, while also publishing many (usually sexually) violence-against-women fantasies and having serious problems with public groping; being very traditional while also pushing the boundaries of technology; and madly incorporating Western influences into culture while also being rather societally xenophobic to name a few.

Some of this weird dissonance can be found at Danny Choo's blog where he depicts (almost daily) via a series of well-photographed entries on topics like anime-character action-figures, downtown weekend street culture in Tokyo, and some of the oddities of Japanese modern culture. I personally like his blog, with its wide variety of stories, as well as the occasional poll related to the blog topic. What I take from it (having lived in Japan for seven years) is that the interesting cultural mixing pot that defines what is Japan today continues to bubble and spurt forth some interesting gestalt.

A narrative that runs parallel in time with the brilliance of the anime culture Danny writes about is the (perhaps merely perceived) emasculation of  the Japanese man. This storyline is a common one in Japanese anime and movies, portrayed in various ways, including how the man's whole worth to his family and society is via the corporative identity as a "salaryman". During the economic boom of the 1970s and 1980s, the position of a salaryman (denigrated as some possibly were) was a highly prized one: a white-collar job that would bring wealth and status to the family (irregardless of the fact that so many other people were in the same position, and thus watering down any "gains in status" one might achieve). There were many anecdotal stories of how the man (in such an heroic image) would sacrifice everything - including family time - in order to provide for his family (there are even some anecdotes of men dying soon after retirement, unable to cope with a life devoid of work). In the economic downturn and ensuing doldrums of the 1990s and 2000s, the "former salaryman" image morphed into that of the unemployed man who sends his wife and children to the country - to his or her parents' house - while he remains in the city (homeless) to look for a job. The counterpoint to the old-man-in-the-park image was that of a rebellious youth who sees little reason to join the large corporate world, little incentive to start his own business, and the allure of living off his parents' savings. What all three images have, though, is the subservience of the man to some outside force (the company, perceived social demands, the parents). One of the messages derived from Japan's economic story line (one which I would argue has a fertile future) is how Japanese men are not really self-deterministic, and therefore symbolically emasculated. (Of course, I could also be way off the mark here.)

However, an interesting insight into the juxtaposition of Japanese love of technology (robots, especially, thanks to anime blockbusters like Mobile Suit Gundam, Macross, Appleseed, etc.) with perceptions of Japanese male sexualized desires has just emerged. Sega has developed a new table-top robot: EMA, which stands (in all its "Engrish" glory) for "Eternal, Maiden, Actualization" [sic].

What I find funny (and sad) is the statement (hopefully it is a small sound-bite of a larger piece) by the Sega spokesperson (via translation): "She's very loveable, and though she's  not a human, she can act like a real girlfriend." WHAT? So, a real girlfriend's actions are merely to stand around looking curvaceous, dance haltingly on a tabletop, and is programmed to kiss any face that comes near it? Hmmm.... It is a worrisome statement about the condition of Japanese men, women, and perceptions of male desires.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Linux is a worse choice than Windows.

Via Socialized Software:
I played around with Ubuntu this weekend and I have been really impressed by everything, but I know many people still want to use a Windows desktop. So I thought I would give you ten reasons why you shouldn’t use Ubuntu so when your Ubuntu-loving friends tell you about it you can be armed with some reasons why you would rather use Windows.

  1. You Don’t Try Before You Buy - We all want to believe all the propaganda from people selling us something we don’t need. So why would you want to be able to test-drive an operating system via liveCD before you install it. Tell ‘em you don’t need any guarantees either, you’ll take it as-is, sight unseen.
  2. Installation of Software is Too Easy - With Ubuntu you only have to click on the Synaptic and click check boxes to add software. Then hit Apply. You probably will feel gypped when you have to go searching for software, unzip it, quite everything else you are running, and then install an .exe. Then when you are done run Windows Update (of course only using Internet Explorer) just to make sure everything is up to date.
  3. Too Few Viruses/Too much security - Virus scanners give you a warm fuzzy feeling, they can also keep your computer from performing as fast as possible. Slowing down your performance keeps people’s expectations of you low. Without spy-ware and viruses slowing you down it’s a nuisance plus once you are logged in it’s not going to crash or be wiped out by viruses. Plus if you got too much work done you might get promoted or a raise. That would be a real pain trying to figure out how to spend the extra money.
  4. No Expensive Office Suites - You know you like to pay $400+ dollars for Microsoft Office Professional. OpenOffice.org must be some kind of communist plot. Why save that money for your kids college or support education initiatives in the third-world when you can help fund Bill Gates’ humble lifestyle.
  5. Optional Purchase Option - If an operating system is free it can’t be that good. You want to go through an activation process to make sure it’s a genuine operating system. That activation is a convenience put in place to make you feel more secure. You should be proud to volunteer your personal information and then be forced into an upgrade cycle that milks you out of hundreds of dollars every couple years. It makes perfect sense.
  6. Too many Free Applications to Choose From - Why would you want choices you think it better just to be told what to do? You should browse the Microsoft catalog first, then go to your local Best Buy for an office suite, image editors, and other document authoring software. If you are tempted to chose one package over the other on your own ask the burnout sales guy who was smoking weed behind the dumpster an hour ago for his opinion. Why would you want to use Scribus, Nvu, GIMP, OpenOffice that can be downloaded for free when you drive your gas guzzling SUV to the store add some CO2 to the global warning, maybe even run down an endangered species in route.
  7. Too Well Documented - You hate it when you can find easy-to-understand, search-able documentation. [I wanted to find out how to troubleshoot my wireless card so I went and looked at the http://help.ubuntu.com and there was at least three easy-to-read up-to-date documents to help me.] I know I really wanted to call someone named John who was being exploited in a third world country, have him read a script about how he would help me and watch him fail miserably then have him wish me a very good day as my system was in worse condition than before we started talking.
  8. Excellent Free No Wait Technical Support - Speaking of support, why should I want to go to #Ubuntu on IRC where 1300 Ubuntu users are hanging out and offering their time to answer questions for free. It’s much more fun waiting on hold to hear John read his support script. John (in an accent that is so thick you can hardly make out the words): Hello, this is John, "How may I be helping you."
    You: My desktop isn’t displaying anything but a error message
    John: I am sorry to hear that, what seems to be the problem.
    You: My screen is displaying an error message.
    John: I am very sorry to hear that, I would like you to reboot.
    You: I just did.
    John: I am very sorry to hear that, I would like you to reboot.
    You: Really, why? I just rebooted.
    John: I am very sorry to hear that, I would like you to reboot.
    You: Can you just tell me problem that might cause that error?
    John (long pause): Please hold I must get my supervisor….
    You: What’s his name?
    John: Frank
    You: What’s his real name?

  9. Too many Interface Choices - I know you like the choices in Windows you can buy many versions of Vista with slightly more functionality at much greater prices. When you use Ubuntu, you have too many choices. You have the option of using Ubuntu with the Gnome desktop environment, if you hate that you can use Kbuntu using the QT-based KDE environment. What if you work in an office don’t you want the same operating system that is used by third graders in their schools. After all let’s start children while they are young authoring painfully ineffective slide decks on PowerPoint. Why would you want them to use a custom version for schools like Edubuntu . It should be a law that you need a fast state of the art computer, why would you want an operating system that doesn’t require at least a gig of RAM and a wicked fast video card. In fact Ubuntu users with modest machines use Xbuntu to keep the resource requirements low. Once again you shouldn’t be allowed to compute if you can’t afford the latest and greatest computer. Computing is a privilege and poor people shouldn’t be allowed to access the Internet.
  10. Too Much Eye Candy - You don’t want any cool eye-candy like rotating desktops transparency, woobly windows, and more. Why risk someone calling you a show-off when you start demonstrating your fancy desktop. Keep your profile low with Windows Vista, it looks just like everyone else’s desktop.
I have installed Ubuntu on my personal computer to allow for a dual-boot option. I must say that I like what I have seen so far. Unfortunately, I do still have to keep my Windows XP boot option available, since I use some specialized software that is written only for Windows.

One ... more ... video ... (well... set of videos...)

This time on Barak Obama talking about how the phrase "lipstick on a pig" is not an attack on Paiin, but is rather a common turn-of-phrase. So here is a video showing how Obama's speech. You will note that (with the exclusion of the stammering, which I've omitted below) Obama is talking about McCain's plan, and not Palin's plan, Palin's family, or to Palin's reference of lipstick and bulldogs during the RNC convention.
Let's just list this for a second. John McCain says that he's about change, too. And so I guess his whole angle is, "Watch out, George Bush! Except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Carl Rove-style politics we're really going to shake things up in Washington. That's not change. That's just calling the same thing something different. But know you can - you,  you can - you can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig.
But what happens? The news world blows up and says that the "Lipstick on a pig" statement was a sexist attack on Palin. Fox News' Hannity claims it is an attack, because:
"obviously that audience knew what he was refering to in light of Sara Palin's remarks. We got Joe Biden [calling] a woman who might be our first vice president a 'backward step for women'. Joe Biden is introduced by a congressman you know there's no way you can dress up that record, even with a lot of lipstick. You know, if John McCain had said these things, what would the reaction be?"

Sorry Hannity, you are making a supposition about the knowledge of a room full of people who may well be knowledgeable of the actual meaning of the phrase. You cannot accuse Senator Obama of making an attack against Governor Palin, since he did not make one. (Go on, check out your video again.) The above video ends (just in case you didn't watch it) with an interesting snap to a video of Senator McCain using that very phrase - "lipstick on a pig" - to describe his viewpoint of Senator Clinton's health care policy. Whoops. Sorry, Hannity, where were you criticizing McCain about his statement directly leveled against Senator Clinton?

Today, after the major bru-ha-ha erupted throughout the MSM, Senator Obama made a statement before (what looks to be) a townhall-style meeting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mario, Super

Ever wonder what happened to Mario at the end of the game - for those of us who never actually played it through to the end?

From SethComedy comes this short about a possible ending to one of the games: Mario saves the princess, but she rejects him.

This video - and many more - are part of the SethComedy channel on YouTube. If you like the odd sense of random humor you get from The Family Guy, then I would say - check it out.

Scary thoughts.

Here's a scary thought... if it turns out to be true:

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The "Gay Agenda" and how to avoid it.

Two days in a row? Ed Brayton hits another home-run with this long elucidating counter-statement to the creeping "gay agenda" (the preceding link contains not-so-subtle humor and mockery directed at those who believe in the conspiracy theory of a gay agenda):
And it might surprise people to find out that, for once, I agree with LaBarbera. I think the anti-gay crowd should do what it is trying to do to McDonald's and Ford and boycott every company that scores high on the HRC's index. And to help them out, I've prepared a list of some of the companies they now have to avoid.

You can't fly on American Airlines, Continental or US Airways, both of which scored a perfect 100. You might also want to avoid United, Southwest, Delta, Northwest, and JetBlue; all scored above 80. In fact, Sarah Palin is gonna have a difficult time flying anywhere since Alaska Airlines also got a perfect score. Who can you fly? Well, you could try Nepal Airlines, the faith-based airline that sacrifices goats to appease God. On second thought, that won't work either. Nepal Airlines has two planes, both of them made by Boeing; Boeing got a perfect 100 too. Go Greyhound!

In fact, you might want to start boycotting the military too. Most of the major defense contractors scored very well. Honeywell, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman all scored a perfect 100. Lockheed got an 85. Who would have guessed that our good ol' red-blooded and (presumably) straight American fighting men are using weapons that advance the gay agenda? If they don't ask, we won't tell. Actually, you're gonna have to stop watching religious channels like TBN as well, since they are broadcast on satellites made by gay-loving companies.
Shopping could be a problem too. You can't shop at Abercrombie and Fitch, The Gap, JC Penney's, Macy's, or Nordstroms. Can't wear Levis jeans or Nike shoes. And even that staple of middle American fashion, LL Bean, scored a 79. Ah well, there's always K-Mart. And in a pinch, you can always wear a plain white sheet.
Then again, it's going to be difficult to get to the mall anyway since cars are pretty much out entirely. Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota, Subaru and Volkswagon all scored a perfect 100. You could try Volvo, but that's a Swedish company and you know how those morally bankrupt Scandinavians like to treat gay people like human beings. It may be horse and buggy time.

Finances are gonna be damn near impossible. Want to find a hetero-normative mortgage? Good luck. Bank of America, Citigroup, Countrywide, JP Morgan Chase, Fannie Mae, Indy Mac, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo all scored 100. Heck, I bet gay marriage is the real cause of the foreclosure problem.
Need a morally upstanding credit card? Avoid American Express, Mastercard and Visa; all got perfect scores. Can't do Discover either, since they're owned by Morgan Stanley and damn if they didn't get a 100 as well.

Banking in general is gonna be a real problem for the Righteous, and you might as well give up on any thought of investing your money or saving for retirement. Bank of America, Bear Stearns, Capital One Financial, Charles Schwab, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia - all get perfect scores on the Sodomy Scale. I guess that leaves the old coffee can under the bed, but you'll have to make sure it isn't Maxwell House or Gevalia; they're both owned by Kraft Foods which, you guessed it, got a perfect score too.

Speaking of which, eating and drinking could be a bit difficult as well. No Coke or Pepsi, they both got 100. Nothing from Kraft or General Mills, which wipes out about half the products in the supermarket. No Budweiser. For crying out loud, even Coors, typically a friend to conservatives, has been corrupted by the forces of buggery and scores a perfect 100. And even that old American standby, Campbell Soups, got a 95.
Aren't the "conservatives" (and yes, I don't really consider them true conservatives) those who say, "Let the market decide"? Hasn't the market decided that it is a good thing to offer similar benefits to homosexual couples? Hasn't the market decided that equality is a much easier - and profitable - policy than bigotry? True, I'm not one to say that the market should be used to solve all our problems, since there are vast areas of "externalities" that are not considered within the current framework of "the market". However, in this, I think that many companies have gotten it fiscally and morally correct: discrimination based on some religiously based hetero-normative concept of "right" and "wrong" is both financially detrimental as well as morally bankrupt in today's pluralistic (well... at least it is reaching that point) society.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Spanish homework.

So I don't even know if I'm in the class yet (still wait-listed!), but I have homework that - if I don't complete, but do get in the class - will be a bad mark against me. However, if I do complete it, it will have taken time out of my schedule...

To do homework for a class in which I am not enrolled or not to do homework for a class in which I am not enrolled. That is the question. Whether 'tis better in action to suffer the bad grades and instructor malcontentment but by doing my homework, avoid them? Hmm... The bard is of no use to me here...

Of course, it is only "PASO A" and is half-done already. Still, one would rather spend time doing something else... However, I have already eaten dinner. I have already frittered my time away doing less-constructive tasks. I might as well get some work done!

More on "Drill baby drill"

The other day I wrote about the "drill baby drill" chant. Apparently, I'm in good company when I wrote what I did.

Palin for pres!

Via Pharyngula:

Something I can really get behind

There are usually statements about the right-wing of this country's politics that I agree or don't agree with. However, many of those that I agree with are not said with as much cogency or character as Mr. Ed Brayton. His insights on matters political and scientific stem unerringly from a position of unassailable logic and further built upon with a similar taste of From today's Dispatches:
I'm watching the Republican National Convention and Mike Huckabee starts blathering on about Obama's trip to Europe, saying that he's concerned that Obama might have brought back "European ideas." Statements like that ("San Francisco values") are the reason why I cannot ever identify myself with the right in this country. Time and time again they appeal to the dumbest and more ignorant among us.

European ideas? Our entire system of government is based on European ideas. Every single one of the primary intellectual influences that influenced the founding of this country - John Locke, Montesquieu, Algernon Sydney, etc - were Europeans. This kind of rhetoric is stupid, xenophobic bullshit, plain and simple. I can't stomach it. It makes me want to stand up and scream.

When they get weepy eyed and appeal to shallow emotionalism, as they do in a thousand different ways as a matter of routine, it makes me want to scream. When they accuse anyone who disagrees with Republican foreign policy of not "supporting the troops" it makes me want to scream (and yes, it only happens with Republican wars; they had no problem attacking Clinton's decision to send troops to Bosnia).

When they talk about "family values" while denigrating the millions of families headed by or including gay people, it makes me want to scream. When they cry "what about the children" as a justification for making gays and lesbians into second-class citizens, it makes me want to scream. Don't tell me how much you care about families while you're pushing policies that reduce the legal and economic security of families headed by gay parents.

And then I get to listen to Palin deliver that trite bullshit about "small town America." I get so tired of that ridiculous frame (and Democrats do the same thing often). Small towns are filled with nothing but patriotic, good-hearted, hard-working folks, each of them blessed with a huge amount of that ill-defined thing called "common sense" - as opposed to all those pointy headed intellectuals in big cities, of course. It's just plain stupid.

There are issues on which I agree with Republicans. On eminent domain, I am all for limiting the government's ability to seize property. I'm all for reducing taxes, especially the income tax (but only if we cut spending first because the worst possible situation is to pass on debt to ourselves and our children, then we have to pay it back plus interest). And there are many conservative scholars that I respect and admire.

But the pedestrian right, the partisan political right, specializes in appealing to the most shallow and base emotions of the masses. So much of their rhetoric is carefully calculated to appeal only to the stupid and the credulous and that is something I cannot tolerate. I simply can't stomach their penchant for emotional demagoguery and their tendency to grope for the most shallow possible response to every conceivable issue.
 Well said, Ed. Well said.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bacon-fat + liquor = drinks special?

From New York Magazine:

Apparently its quite good...

Craziness from Japan: American Imperialist Politics?

"Craziness" and "Japan" have - in recent decades - become almost synonymous in many areas. However, the area of Japanes politics can hardly be called "crazy" - what with near-absolute control of the government by the LDP for several decades.

However, recently I was put on to this video, released by Toyama Koichi. In it, he makes some good points about US cultural imperialism and states that he - as a citizen of the United States [of the world] will be running for president. Quite an interesting take.
"I am a revolutionary from Japan, one of America's '51st' states. ... There's something I cannot stand. ... It seems that I am ... unable to vote [in America's election]!"
His message here is basically that since the United States' culture has effectively inculcated every country in the world, and since the United States has little compunction in conducting police actions in countries - in order to make them like the United States - that he (Toyama Koichi) is effectively a citizen of the United States. (I somehow doubt that he would pass the "natural born" requirement though...)

The video is not a serious claim for running for the presidency (he would be way too late to make much of an impact, though). It is, however, a political statement - one that is both humorous and disturbing.

Koichi is of course, better known (in Japan) for his crazy statements when "running" for the office of Tokyo's prefectural governor.

Evolution, labeling, Sarah Palin, Palin-McCain

What do evolution, labeling, "Sarah Palin", and "Palin McCain" have in common? Not much, you would think, but check out what sort of thing comes up when you do a search for these name combinations in amino acid abbreviations.

From Jonathan Eisen:
Anyway, alas, three of the major candidates for the US election have names that do not use traditional amino acid abbreviations so I am stuck with analyzing Sarah Palin. But that is OK because of her professed aversion to evolution and support to Creationism (and since sequence analysis is inherently an evolutionary study).

So - I took here name and went to the NCBI Blast page and did some searches. And what came up? Well, here are some of the top hits from the blastp searches (which I used to compare the pretend peptide "SARAHPALIN" with all the peptides in the non redundant collection at Genbank).
There does not appear to be a perfect match in the NCBI NR protein database. But take a close look at the #1 scoring hit. That is right, it is from and organism called Botryotinia fuckeliana. No comment on the appropriateness of this name, but it does contain a term I will probably use a lot if she gets elected.
Though making trees from really short sequences is not ideal, in this tree, Sarah Palin is shown to be at the root of a branch including a protein from the parasitic nematode Brugia malayi. So if we take an evolutionary interpretation it seems that this causative agent of filariasis (well, a protein from this agent) is descended from SarahPalin. In other words, she seems to be ancestral to this parasite.

So in conclusion - by similarity - SarahPalin is closest to a plant pathogen with an unusual name. And by phylogeny SarahPalin is ancestral to a parasitic nematode. Sounds about right.

Okay, so it's a bunch of geeky humor. However, looking in the comments, J.E. wrote:
I may write a new post on this --- but the best blast hit for "MCCAINPALIN" is ....

>gb|ACE82429.1| polyprotein [Hepatitis C virus subtype 1a]

Score = 26.1 bits (54), Expect = 339
Identities = 8/10 (80%), Positives = 9/10 (90%), Gaps = 1/10 (10%)

_____Query 1 MCCAINPALI 10
____________MC AI+PALI
___Sbjct 877 MC-AIHPALI 885

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Daily Show is useful.

The Daily Show is a useful place for people who like to see what has happened through time, in that the staffers are really good at picking up old video clips and playing "then and now" or "compare and contrast" with them. Here are two clips regarding the recent GOP convention.

This covers McCain's speech during the last day of the convention. I had heard highlights of it, and thought, "Hmm... Sounds like something I'd heard eight years ago..." And looky there! IT IS!

This second one is also great: It's Karl Rove vs. Karl Rove in his attack of proposed Democratic candidates due to their lack of experience, and praise of Sara Palin due to a more egregious lack of experience.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A good info-toon on homosexuality and choice

Well, I think it's a good info-toon on the subject. I like the end bit where the disclaimer says, "The information found in this educational cartoon is based on studies that can be found in any university library... with the possible exception of Bob Jones University in South Carolina."

The second YouTube is an "Oh, Really" interview of Eric Marcus. Oh Really doesn't actually shout down Mr. Marcus, but he does cut him off several times and make (imho) stupid claims:

"I don't care what you guys do or what lesbians do... it doesn't matter in private. But I don't like the fact that there's a segment of the gay population that's in your face... my face... kid's faces... religious people's faces - who don't approve of the lifestyle. Christians have a right to not approve of the lifestyle."

Ummm...  Yes, Mr. Oh Really. Christians are allowed to not approve of the lifestyle. However, Christians are not allowed to dictate against the civil liberties of others just because they don't like that group. The rest of the interview plays out as you might expect: Oh Really cuts his guest off several times, interjects his own point-of-view, closes with a confrontation about whether his point-of-view is correct, and then ends the segment. However, with the guest sitting right across the table from him, Oh Really wasn't able to be as bombastic and in-your-face as he sometimes does get when he's remotely interviewing someone.