Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Definitions are critical in the world of science. For all intents and purposes, science is an arbitrary set of rules and regulation used to standardize the world for the sake of easy communication.

As such, I like defining things. It's always so easy. For example, the definition of supercar has been having a hard go, recently. With cars like the Nissan GT-R crushing cars that cost four times as much in performance figures, and the Corvette ZR1 destroying everything ever, what is a supercar anymore?

I propose a definition that can be easily and universally applied. A supercar is a car that,

  • Costs in excess of six times the median annual income of a United States household.

  • Has 0-60mph times and top speed times in the upper 1% of production automotive performance by model volume and not production volume.

  • Is street legal with all performance numbers done on street legal tires.

  • Can seat at least two people.

I chose the six-times figure because that results in allowing the Lamborghini Murcielago onto the list, which I see as the baseline supercar. It also eliminates everything Porsche, Ferrari, and Aston Martin make. Porsche is too accessible, Aston is too soft, and Ferrari uses the Enzo as their performance baseline, meaning it's their supercar, so it's mine too.

I figure the most obvious metric for a supercar is its performance. The super-rich are classified as the upper 1%, so why not classify supercars as the upper 1%.

The street legality parameter is flexible since what constitutes street legality changes from state to state, and country to country. For example, the Porsche 959 was never certified in the United States merely because the four cars required for crash testing were never supplied by Porsche. An event such as this should not have any effect on the classification of the car. I like Top Gear's measure of a car must being able to clear a speed bump.

I chose the street legal, two-seat parameter to eliminate street-ready race cars. Race cars are very fast. Of course they are. Supercars should be fast street cars, not slow race cars.

All of the measures must be compared at the time of production. So the Porsche 959 would not be a supercar now, but it certainly was when it was produced in the late 80's.

Friday, December 19, 2008

While on the Subject...

Of homos. Or is it homoes. Either way.

The UN, in all its useful glory, recently presented a draft of a resolution calling for the legalization of homosexuality. The basic premise of the resolution is to extend human rights to people regardless of sexual orientation.

In a shocking move, the Arab states responded with their own resolution against the first resolution. The Arab resolution says the European resolution could cause "the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts including pedophilia."

Why do people with untenable and ridiculous stances always say they are protecting children. Do they think it's a catch-all argument? How the hell do they go from legalizing being a homosexual to legalizing the rape of a child? Seriously, Arabia, go fuck yourselves.

Not like we're much better. Everybody remember Ryan White? He caught HIV from a blood transfusion. So, in a display of grand logic demonstrating humanity's superior intellect, he was banned from school, received threatening letters, phone calls, was called such accurate epithets as "faggot" and "homo," and had his house shot up from a a passing car.

If it hadn't been for an equally strong show of support from other people, I'd say that humanity should just be nuked now and let the apes take over. Arabia is not helping. Granted, Arabia doesn't help much of anything. I say we bomb 'em and take their oil. Who's with me? Oh right, we tried that. Dammit.

Only in Arkansas

I'm sure you knew what I was talking about just from the title.

The Duggar family, those human rabbits, just welcomed their 18th child into the world. A world of blind religious creed and destructive behaviors.

Michelle Duggar, the matriarch, has basically been pregnant for the last twenty years. Twenty years, eighteen children, you do the math. This is disgusting. We have a population problem, and these people feel the need to do nothing, and I mean apparently nothing but breed. To steal a line, we are not rebuilding after the flood.

We have the highly educated among us having fewer and fewer children, and yet these bottom-of-the-totem pole, borderline cro-magnons are pooping out children like they took some industrial strength ovarian laxative. I don't know what to do. Either kill them or force professors and doctors to just start breeding like mad. For pete's sake, the man's name is Jim Bob! JIM BOB! He sounds like a secondary character from the Dukes of Hazzard! His name might as well be Boomhauer!

I've argued before how I think people are foolish who do not seriously consider the philosophy of their religion, because they frequently base life actions on those beliefs. This is a fantastic example of people not doing that. And how conceivably low can the woman's self esteem be to think that the best way through life is being pregnant damn-near 24/7?

The photo above has been circulating about the interpipes for a few years, now, and is the Duggar family with fourteen children. Yep. Add FOUR MORE. The father described the most recent addition as "just absolutely beautiful, like her mom and her sisters." All of whom I sure he's having sex with.

I'm sorry to degrade to sophomoric name-calling and allegations of incest, but this is absurd. I don't consider the attack ad hominim because not only does his action deserve to be attacked, but so does he. He may not look like a hick, but fundamentalist Christians frequently don't. Instead, they look like quasi-RennFest weirdos in flower print dresses and Sunday-best suits. And not only are they fundamentalist, they are what is referred to as Quiverfull, or Full Quiver Christians.

This particular skewing of Christian creed is not only against birth control in any form, but they active try to have as many children as possible. I assume the woman basically breeds until dead. What the hell are you? Rodents?

You want to see how vacuous these people are? Check out the Wikipedia entry on the family and look at the far-reaching ambitions of the children. Or look up the teachings of the preacher they endorse, Bill Gothard. Let's look at some of his winning stances:

  • Women must submit to husbands

  • Adults must submit to the husband's father

  • He protested against Cabbage Patch Dolls and Treasure Trolls.

  • Apparently wrote The Secret, because he thinks all of life's problems come from bad character

  • That includes mental illness. I'd love to see him and Tom Cruise go at it.

  • Thinks that prayer can cure illnesses like cancer and infertility

  • Forbids dancing, dating, and exciting music as evil.

  • Thinks the "saved" should limit contact with the evil, outside world. How cult-like. Very nice.

  • All children should be home-schooled with the Bible alone.

  • Oh, and as always, homosexuality is evil and will cause the end-times.

These people are being featured in a Discovery Channel show. They're becoming something of a celebrity. They shouldn't be celebrated, even slightly! To steal another line, Michelle should have her legs tied together and be heavily sedated! They are religious fanatics who, while allowed to do this if they so want, should be mocked, derided, and ostracized. They are vapid, vacuous, ignorant, bigoted, and in all likelihood mean. I'm not just throwing names, there. People in hard-line fundamentalist groups are in those groups because of serious problems. Child abuse and spousal abuse runs rampant, and if they're not soulless shells of a human, they're very frequently petty, vindictive people scared of, and angry at the world. They should be portrayed as such.

I'm sorry, but I do not want them anywhere near me. I don't want them in our society. And, man, if they believe in avoiding contact with evil sinners like me, that is fan-freaking-tastic.

Just get the fuck off of the TV!

Friday, December 05, 2008

I Love Life, I Love Love, I Love Pie!

Much of religion is something I wouldn't want.

Hayy Ibn Yaqzan
, the eponymous star of the first Arabic novel, lived in a cave contemplating God. This was portrayed in the story as being the ideal state of a human. He hardly ever ate. He bordered on being a vegetable. I found the imagery ironically similar to Plato's allegory of the cave. Only, in this version, we spend our time in an actual cave. I assume this was intended, since much of Plato's writing was available to Ibn Tufail, the author, and he meant the irony of true illumination actually taking place in a cave. Still, just imagine what that would be like. Long beard, pale skin, emaciated from barely eating. I wouldn't want that!

I would rather be cursed to a life without a connection to God and actually get stuff done. I want to build things, write stories, and paint pictures. I would rather live a life of pain and achievement than ecstasy and inactivity. In the same way as the prospect of falling from Grace rankles me. Who wouldn't WANT to be out of the garden of Eden. I want to grow my food. I want to shepherd my animals. Who is God to say we cannot have knowledge. Our greatest asset is our mind. No knowledge is bad.

If I live in damnation, so be it. I'll be happy for the rest of time knowing that it is not God, but I who defined my life. What a ridiculous God when all of the interesting people are damned. And that's a fact. Janis Joplin? Damned. Oscar Wilde? Damned. Most of our Presidents are likely damned. The entire team behind the Manhattan project? Oh boy are they fucked. I find it mildly insulting to say that I need God for guidance and purpose. That only God could ever be the final goal in life. What an absurd parent to expect His children to return home.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oh, Men. What Will We Do With You?

This game doesn't euphemize at all. You don't even have to know what it's about and you know that it's meant for men. Big, hulking, bald men with big guns and big "guns," and women in battle bikinis with big guns and big "guns." I guess, kudos to them for knowing their market.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Death of God

I'm a student of philosophy. I like to think I'm a student in the truest sense, in that I seek truth. While I've discussed before that I think truth can never actually be attained, it's the journey that is important, not the destination. Merely being on a quest for truth should steer me rightly.

One conclusion that I keep hitting is that God, practically, doesn't exist. He might exist, but how can we know? The Bible? Other people telling us so? Ha! Literature and testimony are so unreliable we frequently don't allow them in the courts, much less in such an important question about the existence of the divine.

So many great philosophers who set aside their dogma in a philosophical quest run headlong into a wall that they can't seem to climb. Descartes is the most famous one of which I can think. His (in)famous "light of nature" argument was basically a poorly formed attempt to transcend his earlier destruction of truth.

I have always thought of Aristotle as the first atheist. Even though he assumed that "God" was at the foundation of the world's functioning, he eventually distilled him/her/it down to pure activity. When you've done that, it's a small leap to eliminate the assumption of intelligence and get into a force-driven world. I think it's no surprise that so much of Medieval philosophy was focused on discussing the ramifications of the newly-rediscovered Aristotelian thought. Bonaventure, Aquinas, and many others were dedicated to the now-commonplace arguments for separating empirical observation from religious thought, and even if you couldn't separate them, religious thought trumped empiricism.

Most medieval thought was primarily theological and not philosophical. They really didn't get back into philosophical thought in earnest until near the Renaissance. I say theological because, even though there was philosophical thought mixed in with the overarching religious concepts, the assumption of God and his characteristics was at the center of their works. The Islamic thought of the time was much more receptive to contemplation about the nature of God and was, consequently, closer to real philosophy.

Moving into the Renaissance, we finally got more questions about God, and again those that questioned moved dangerously close to either atheism or agnosticism. I always see René Descartes as the most famous. He was a devoutly religious person who managed to so thoroughly destroy confidence in reality that he had to come up with a half-baked theory to explain how we can rest assured that God exists.

Move ahead about a hundred years to Immanuel Kant. Another very devout person who not only was a true philosopher, but actually destroyed, to most people's satisfaction, one of the only real arguments for the existence of God: Anselm's ontological argument. I see in these men a person who believed, but was unable to set aside his intellect for the sake of those beliefs.

So, again, God may or may not exist, but it's the belief in Him that's pointless. As I said earlier, being on a quest for truth can steer me rightly. I have no need for religion, except for maybe bake sales. I am my own cause, and if I am that, what does a God I can never know do for me? Nothing, I say.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God Damnit.

I don't feel commenting on the election is necessary, but the gay marriage ban in California is worth it.

I'm not going to try for eloquence, or subtlety. You people are morons. I've listed this under religion because if you voted for the ban, you're doing it for religious reasons. No rational, non-religious person would care.

I generally dislike religion. I find it rather stupid. I especially dislike it in instances like this. As I mentioned in my post directly preceding this post, anyone who is religious and not an expert on all things philosophical is a raging jackass. And anyone who was philosophical would not have voted for this ban.

This ban is the result of religious, stupid people who should be shot.

The need for philosophy.

One of the most annoying things about philosophy students is their propensity to jerk off their mental meat. To argue for the sake of arguing. To sit in a comfy chair, think really hard, and go to sleep under the impression that they have done something of importance. They rarely think of real applications to their thoughts, because that may require work.

Even professors are guilty of this. They obsess over minutiae that can never have any effect on our life. The subtle arguments for skepticism, or the bizarre details of metaphysics. Philosophers have dug so deeply into arguments as to render many of them arguably semantic and undoubtedly beyond every-day application.

Where can philosophy be used?! It can be, I know it. I apply it to my own life. Especially for those who count themselves religious. A large part of your life is based on a subject that is the explicit purview of philosophy. It certainly applies and you would be an idiot to not dive, headlong, into full study.

Philosophy often gets marginalized. Graduating classes are small, and post-graduate work is limited to jobs at Starbucks with the English majors. I think it should be the focus of philosophy classes to try and find applications for students and force philosophy on the popular view. Integrate philosophy into other endeavors.

We must find applications. Without them, what point is there to whole mess? Even after my previous mocking of English majors, there are obvious applications to understanding the language and its corresponding literature. Books entertain. Words inform. A good English major is a highly valuable resource. But a good philosophy major? What the fuck do they do?

I see philosophy as, ideally, the quest for truth. The search through the fog of reality to achieve enlightenment. But for real applications, I see philosophy as learning how to think as opposed to learning about what to think. Science is learning how to analyze, but how did science decide at what point we know something? Through philosophy. I see it at the root of every intellectual quest we have.

Friday, October 17, 2008


In an earlier post, I lamented the cost of doing business in the US, and said it has something to do with America's fall from grace in the world of architecture.

I held up Dubai as a good example, but mentioned only briefly that human rights take a back seat in that sort of development. In my plea for a middle ground, I didn't effectively communicate the degree to which human rights goes out the window.

This article for the UK's Guardian, and this one in Mother Jones, really drives home how badly the poor are treated in the pursuit of glimmering palaces and it is something anyone interested in architecture should read. It makes you feel pretty good that, even though we're not as impressive, we get some excellent buildings done while at the same time maintaining a high level of worker's rights.

That's not too bad, I think.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My own adventures with Windows Vista

I have two systems blessed with Windows Vista. A high-end Hewlett-Packard desktop, and a Sony laptop. The Sony is the VGN-SZ670N and the HP is the M9080N. If you look up the specs, you'll see they're both kick-ass machines.

I have had NOTHING but problems with Vista. My laptop Blue Screens on a pretty regular basis. No clue why. I've read multiple threads online from other people discussing how they have had blue screen errors from Vista on my laptop and tons of other laptops, both from Sony and from other companies. I want to document and post my experiences in hope that they will help someone else who is having similar problems.

The laptop. Talk about a pain. First off, Sony's customer service is abysmal. I was directed to do the usuals, and finally directed to the either Microsoft's service, or to use the restore disc to just wipe the computer and start over fresh. Or, as fresh as Sony's bloated, crap-filled initial install could ever be described.

Microsoft was also no help, simply telling me that the likely culprit was a driver. At least Microsoft led me in a some, ANY, direction. They were right, but what they couldn't explain is why Vista seems to suddenly take a disliking to random drivers in my laptop. The last time this happened, I had to install new video drivers. The next time, it was my DVD drive, a matshita dvd-ram uj-852S. If you Google it, you'll find half of the people on Earth are having problems with that drive. It eventually required this fix.

How did I know the DVD was fucked up, because it suddenly was no longer recognized by Windows. Just one day! No real reason. Upped and stopped working. Brilliant.

The next time, the USB host controller. The USB problems required complete uninstalls of drivers and re-installs of the SAME driver. Vista also stopped liking my USB wireless mouse. I think it may have been the thing that caused Vista to suddenly hate its own USB. I have no idea. I bought a new mouse, stripped Vista of any and all remnants of the USB drivers via regedit.exe, then re-installed reference drivers from Intel's website.

I would have installed reference drivers from Nvidia's website, but ohhhh, right, Sony is using some wacky-ass custom hardware for which only they can provide drivers. So I headed over the Sony's update website, which is terrible. It has a BIOS update that seems to think it's already installed, Nvidia drivers that always fail, and an update to some of Sony's crappy software that I uninstalled months ago. Terrible, UTTERLY TERRIBLE.

So, if you are getting repeated Blue Screens, otherwise known as BSOD, it is almost undoubtedly drivers! Head into control panel > system > Device Manager and see if there are any exclamation marks indicating failed driver loads. If so, go to the websites of the manufacturers and desperately seek out the most recent version. Find reference drivers, anywhere you can. Sony's drivers are unstable and damn-near-impossible to install.

My most recent blue screen and one from some time ago happened whenever I tried to open and then maintain a connection over WiFi. Programs such as BitTorrent, World of Warcraft, or even just simple downloads would crash the system. Upgrading the Intel 4965AGN drivers, even though the system crashed a dozen times during the stop/start download process, fixed the problem.

Do not rely on Sony's update site. Do not rely on Windows Update. Search for yourself regularly at the component manufacturer's website and see if you can find the most recent drivers manually.

Vista's catastrophic network problems continue on the HP. Free of critical system instability, Vista laughs at me by just never connecting to wireless networks. The stock A-G-N WiFi card in the PC had this convoluted antenna that snaked a wire throughout the case. After deciding the card needed to be replaced, I bought a D-Link card with three, holy-moly antennas protruding from the back. This fixed the problem only somewhat.

The problems appears to be that Vista finds it damn-near impossible to connect with networks that have multiple access points. My sister has a Vista desktop in her dorm room, from which there are nine access points all accessing the name network. At my house, there are two access points for the same network. At my house, Vista CANNOT communicate with the D-Link access point. It can only communicate with the router directly.

I have to use the D-Link utility that came with the card to force Vista to connect to a particular MAC address, namely the routers MAC. If left to its own devices, it apparently just tries jumping back and forth from the router to the access point, getting nothing done. And even now, Vista has some serious problems dealing with WiFi connections that are weak.

At the dorm, ALL of the access points are just that, access points. As such, even by picking out and forcing Vista to access only certain points, Vista will connect to only two of the nine. No clue why. We eventually gave up and just used a cat-5 cable. One of her roommates, when asked if she had heard anything about network access, laughed that she had a Mac and it "just worked."

Just worked, indeed. Cocky bitch.

So, yes. If you have the stock network card in your computer, download a network utility that allows you to pick out which networks and which MAC addresses to which to connect. Try Download.com. Then you can pick out specific MACs and see if any of them work. If not, try upgrading your network cards driver. If not, buy a new network card. If not, get a cable. If not, get a Mac.

And don't even get me started on the bloat of Vista. It takes up a jaw-dropping amount of system memory. Right now, with Firefox open and nothing else, I'm rocking 1.4 GB's worth of system memory taken up, and a 1.6GB page file. I know this is supposed to be good, because Windows dumps what it can into RAM, so why does it take Vista forever to boot? And why does Vista access the hard drive for the first 20 minutes of operations? And why does the promise of multi-tasking with a dual-core CPU seem like a shallow lie? And most importantly, why is XP noticeable faster for almost every application I have? Tests seem to show no difference between Vista and XP, even showing Vista to be faster, but in my real-world experience, Vista is noticeable slower in Fireworks, Photoshop, Flash, and World of Warcraft?

And why, OH WHY, in World of Warcraft, with Vista, does holding down an arrow for an extended time while running slow the system to a crawl? It bogs down something. Some buffer somewhere is having a seizure.

Vista's instability, wide-spread and extreme network problems, and bloated, inefficient nature mean that XP remains the standard bearer for desktop PC's. Only an idiot would get Vista. I'd ditch it in a heartbeat if my laptop wasn't so fucking optimized for Vista, and Sony has no interest whatsoever in making its Vista laptops, with all their annoying, custom hardware, friendly with XP. So, yeah.

In conclusion, Blue Screen on a Sony VGN-SZ670N is almost always a driver that needs to be upgraded. WiFi connection problems in Vista are because Vista hates access points so you'll need an application to force Vista to connect to certain MAC addresses, and even then it's dodgey. Don't buy Vista, it's a mess of instability. Don't buy from Sony because their customer service is shockingly bad and their software is terrible. Don't get me wrong, the laptop itself is excellent. Well made, sturdy, attractive; it's everything I could want. But Sony insists on using their own software for drivers, music, EVERYTHING, and Sony quite obviously couldn't program their way out of a wet paper bag.

Windows XP on a completely off-the-shelf, hand-built desktop PC. Now that's paradise. Or a Mac, if you're a cocky art student who thinks she's just so special.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Thought We Were Done With This.

Well it's becoming pretty apparent that Sarah Palin is far stupider than first thought.

First off, I'd like to say that in contrast to news reports calling her little-known, I knew about Palin very well. I'm a frequent supporter of Defenders of Wildlife. One of the more level-headed environmental groups who spend most of their time just trying to stop people from killing animals. There are so many people out there who enjoy doing this apparently just for the hell of it that DoW never has a chance to go left-wing-batty and start saying that feeding Yellowstone bears sandwiches is tantamount to genocide.

Recently, DoW was on the losing side of a quest to get aerial hunting of wolves banned in Alaska. Apparently, those aforementioned, animal-killing wackjobs enjoy flying around blowing away wolves, bears, and just about anything that moves. They frequently don't go claim a trophy or anything, they just like shooting things. Guess which side of this debate Palin was on.

Yep. We lost the ballot and the ban never went through. Palin, the companies that supply the helicopters to the small-dicked men who engage in this activity, and a smattering of other groups managed to get the ban knocked down. I feel decent knowing that over 70,000 people supported the ban.

So yes. I was well aware of Palin, but even I had no idea what a terrible person she was. First off, she was a beauty queen. I have problems with anyone who was a beauty queen because it takes a special kind of vapid twit to pursue that. But NOW, if that wasn't bad enough, SHE'S A FUCKING CREATIONIST! What, we wouldn't take Huckabee, so they had to sneak a loonie as second fiddle?

Has John McCain totally abandoned all integrity? He's actually willing to throw his credibility, respect on the international stage (because if you think other countries won't mock a creationist, you're as wrong as they come), and common sense in a bid to get to office? He's willing to cater to the dumbest, most bigoted, horrid parts of our country, and that's sad. McCain was once a truly respectable politician who seemed generally unwilling to play games. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

UPDATE 9/4/2008: An interesting perspective on Palin. Seems to jive with everything else I know about Palin, so I see no reason to not trust it.


Sunday, August 31, 2008


After posting about Adam Savage's elegy for American science, it got me thinking.

I'm an amateur scientist, but I'm a professional designer and engineer. I think about design all the time and read just about every magazine or book there is on the subject. I can bemoan the same thing about American design and ingenuity.

They were once the very best in the world. While other countries may build amazing things, they would always turn to the American design and engineering firms to actually get the job done. That's no longer the case.

I can pick out any area, any focus, and the number of excellent submissions coming out of America has nearly disappeared. While there are many publications that focus on the American market, the international magazines rarely feature our country. China's new creative class is showing us how it's done, and even Europe has left us behind.

I can't even remember the last time I heard something great about an American architect. Of the 11 Pritzker Prizes for architecture handed out from its inception in 1979 to 1989, a US architect won it 6 times. From 1990 to 2008, and likely 2009, we've won it twice. And one of those years was a win by dark horse candidate Thom Mayne.

And what about American industrial design, or consumer products, or clothing? We were fairly well-represented in the IDEA awards, but those skew American because, duh, they're sponsored by BusinessWeek. And even there, of the seven design schools represented, only one was from the US. We've got Apple, but we know their language. They did the original iPod and then, six years later, the iPhone. The MacBook Air was a breakthrough only to Apple fanatics.

I think one of our major problems is exactly what these major, entrenched companies adore, our draconian and ridiculous patent and copyright system. If a company dares innovate or break new ground, they are undoubtedly sued. Apple has been sued near countless times, and Nintendo with their innovative Wii, has of course been sued. I could go on and on and ON about our patent system basically needing to be shot, but the website TechDirt explains why our system is broken apparently beyond repair in much better fashion. When your reward for breaking ground is a lawsuit, there's not much motivation to do anything.

And yet, the East Asian market (which our American companies do nothing but bitch about as a no-mans-land of piracy, lax IP laws, and terrible, uninventive, outlaws who do nothing but steal our ingenious, American ideas) is exploding on the international scene.

Yep. Oh, and back to that list of design schools: Samsung Design Membership (Korea), Hong Ik University (Korea), Seoul National (Korea), Hanyang University (Korea), Royal College of Art (United Kingdom), University of Wuppertal (Germany). Those sad, wannabe schools of design. Stealing all of our ideas and winning awards with them. Tragic.

Another grand example, and by grand, I mean GRAND. Where are all the new buildings being built? Where are all the limits being pushed? Where do the structures look like they sprang from an imagination unhindered by reality? Oh right. Dubai. And China. And Taiwan. And Russia. Hell, even South America. Just not here.

I think a lot of that has to do with how expensive the US has gotten. It's SO pricey to do anything here, nobody is bothering anymore. We have unionized workers who get paid $40 an hour to lay brick (nothing against bricklayers, it's quite a skill). The other countries may have poor workers' rights laws, but boy do they get stuff done. There has to be a middle ground.

Or insurance costs. It costs more to insure an architecture firm, the construction, and everyone involved in the US than in any other country on Earth. You can be sued because your idea is cool, sued if idea takes off, and sued if your idea fails. Big surprise no one wants to do anything in our fucked-up country, anymore.


Adam Savage, the more energetic, ADD-addled member of the Mythbusters pair (I don't count their trio of doofuses as real Mythbusters) recently penned a short article for Popular Mechanics about how to save science education.

It's a quick read, so go do that, I'll pee, and when we come back we can talk about it.

Ok. While I support his drive to make science better in American schools, I think he's picking out a bad apple from a bad bushel and focusing on it. Yes, science is taking quite a hit in America, but that's because education on the whole is taking a hit.

He laments that "one of the first things to go when educational budgets get slashed is science supplies." But I think that's a bit like complaining how firefighters don't rescue the pets first when the house is on fire. The real problem is that the house is on fire. I like that he bluntly states "By all means throw money at the problem!" He's totally right. While many aspects of our school system are inefficient, the need for more money is without doubt. Politicians speak a god game about children being our most valuable asset, and education is critical. But when the time comes to actually do something about it, they push through a laughable reform like "No Child Left Behind" and then cut funding across the board because they all know that petroleum is actually more important than our kids.

I also can't complain about my own experiences in science classes. True, my teachers pretty much single-handedly funded the experiments, but experiment we did. It was interesting that surface tension experiments were some of the very first I ever did in High School. Hell, we even built robots out of TI-86 calculators and motors the teacher had ripped out of dead VCR's.

His last point is important, namely, celebrate mistakes. Our schools, and NCLB only exacerbates this problem, are obsessed with the avoidance of mistakes. When education is based entirely on standardized tests, which Adam laments earlier in the article, mistakes are anathema. Because if you make a mistake, you get the answer wrong, you fail, and your school gets its budget cut.

Obviously, though, this only scratches the surface of our country's educational problems. We have so many I am of the mind that it is dead, and is merely decaying. As Adam points out, "by 2010, Asia will have 90 percent of the world’s Ph.D. scientists and engineers." Our schools are dying. Crumbling under the weight of inadequate funding, an antiquated psychosocial design, and a populous that, really, doesn't care. You may say you care, but when was the last time you voted for someone who said they were going to raise taxes.

As always, America will respond when things get really bad, and they're not really bad, yet.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Here's something I've thought about quite a bit, and I've never had a chance to pose it to any theoretical physicists I come across.

What would happen if you had a disc, say, 10 million miles across, and you spun it. The further out you go, the faster the disc travels, so what happens at the point where the spin speed would exceed the speed of light?

Would the atoms merely separate? I assume the consistency of the disc would have to be broken in some way.

Any thoughts, oh internet?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Take my Planet, Please.

The great debate about Pluto has, amazingly, remained far hotter than its humble subject ever since it was demoted from full planet status. So, basically, we've had a two year argument about semantics where very intelligent people made fun of other very intelligent people. After which they got blasted at the local pub while arguing how many angels fit on the head of a pin and who had the biggest hands.

I make fun, I know. Now, it must be known that a good definition is a good thing. It would be nice to know what planets, exactly, are. Unfortunately, when you are attempting to define things on a spectrum, as opposed to distinct characteristics, things get squiffy, as we can plainly see.

I was initially opposed to the demotion, and in a sense I still am. Considering the world's astronomers were unable to really define a planet, I saw no reason to eliminate one of the nine we were all taught. I still see little reason for the demotion since a succinct, formal definition of a planet doesn't seem very important to me.

I think it's pretty easy to simply call them planetary bodies and then create arbitrary categories within the spectrum. Say, large bodies are more than five times earth's diameter, etc. The categories themselves are unimportant. I also have a problem with the only aspect of the new definition that is mentioned, namely that a planet is a body large enough to generate a gravity field that squeezes the material into a spherical shape. I have a problem with that because it is physically possible for a planet to be a cube. It's unlikely, but there's nothing specifically preventing that from occurring. So what happens if we discover an object that is the size of earth but more cubic than spherical? It's not a planet?

I like my own definition of a planet. If it is directly orbiting a star and is big enough where we can walk on it without floating off into a very lonely and depressing death, it's a planetary body. If we float off into to space, it's not.

The Great (and Sometimes Serious) Debate About Pluto

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Randy Girl

I was thinking about how Ayn Rand's ideas about government only existing to protect individual rights sounds a lot like my idea that it only exists to protect freedom.

I think Ayn Rand was an idiot, in many ways. First, she supported laissez faire economics. Not some sanitized version, either, REAL laissez faire where you can do just about anything. I can't believe she actually felt this way, considering the consequences of an unregulated economy were apparent during her lifetime, she died in 1982.

Also, she was very interested in the protection of defined rights, such as right to property, transaction, etc. I don't see the right to have shit a fundamental right. If anything, a world of no scarcity would result in no ownership, which would be ideal. All we need is a Star Trek replicator.

I also think that the government's charge is protecting liberty, and that's it. Property doesn't have anything to do with it. If the elimination of property could result in greater freedom in some other way, I'd fully support it. In fact, the idea that government's three important tasks as life, liberty, and our crap just seems odd. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is fine! Three abstract concepts as opposed to two abstract concepts and our crap.

Yes, if your crap is material to maintaining life, liberty and happiness, like it is today, then it's important to protect it. But base an entire government and philosophical system on an idea that could be obsolete in a few years is silly.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Government Who?

I've mentioned this before, but I like to stick on subjects like some kind of tumor.

I don't think government is important, and it gets progressively less important as the population under its purview increases. I know it is important, but not in the way people think. Government is important in the sense that it is the framework in which society functions. Government is not the society itself, but merely a section of the society with controlling functionality. I take the idea that government exists for the people to the extreme by saying that the actual existence of government is almost inconsequential since most of what people would and would not do they would be done in the absence of government.

For example, how often does the average person interact with the Federal government aside from paying income tax? They don't. Maybe join the army, or something, but little else. Our interactions with government increase as you go further down the hierarchy. Eventually, people start interacting frequently, but it becomes more of a group effort to solve problems than a classic idea of government.

It's not the most well-formulated idea, but I can back it up with an argument of absence. What is absent? An efficient, honest government. All governments, everywhere, are corrupt. Obviously, the degree of corruption is unknown, but it's obviously there because every now and then, we lift up the rock a little and are forever surprised at the nasty stuff we find. You'd think we'd get used to it.

But the world is getting better. More people have more money and food, technology is advancing, the environment is better (When's the last time you heard of a river catching on fire?) people are more equal, and we have more channels than ever(!). How is this possible if government sucks? Government is unimportant, that's how. It exists to keep people who feel important entertained. That's why government's subject matter never changes. They argue about the exact same stuff year after year, generation after generation. Government never actually gets anything done.

I know I'm using an odd definition of government, perhaps a better term would be politics, I'm not sure. Government is important, to be sure. The system is needed, but I think the system springs naturally from human nature. It sort of codifies that rule set needed from things like economy to work, but people treat it as much more than that. It becomes ideological, and financial, and all about change and straight talk. It all leads to absolutely nothing, but people harp on about it nonetheless until they die.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oscar the Grouch.

Oscar Pistorius didn't qualify. He set a personal best but didn't make it.

I was going to post about him when his possible disqualification from the Olympics came because of the, erroneous, belief that his carbon fiber legs provided him an unfair advantage. Yep. Look at that advantage as he doesn't make it.

It also made me think about the limits being placed on people who can compete. Since competition in sports requires a level playing field, one would think, we have to define what "level" is.

Why do we disqualify people who use steroids? Why not vitamins, or those who train at high altitudes? How do we say that one person is cheating while another is not by simple attempts at augmentation of their own body?

I don't think we can. I don't just not care about steroids, I fully SUPPORT them. I think you're an idiot for taking them, but if you want to drink the juice in an attempt to push your limits higher, more power to you. Cheating, I think, requires a secret manipulation of the playing field. For example, paying off a judge, tripping your competitor, or secretly using equipment that others don't have.

Strangely enough, that third part IS generally legal. If you want to wear some wacky shoes for running, you can. Sharksuit, good to go! But pushing your body hard, that's right out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blow Me.

I mentioned in an earlier post my newfound love for oilman T. Boone Pickens.

Well, he's posted an entire website and begun a television campaign.

It looks like 35 years of lip-service by useless politicians will finally be set aside by someone from the very industry they loved to vilify.

Visit. Watch. Get involved. Remember, the technology to reduce your own energy usage is available now. You can buy solar and wind for your own house.


Sabre Rattling

With the US and Israel not ruling out a military strike on Iran, it got me thinking about Iran.

Iran has oil and nothing else. All of the middle eastern countries are the same way. Even those such as Dubai, who are attempting to become something else than a giant sandbox covering dead dinosaurs, rely exclusively on oil money to support negative cash flow with their experiments.

So that means that Iran's only bargaining chip is oil. What happens if we just totally fuck Iran... somehow. We do something that necessitates a response. Could Iran just cut off oil?

They've already proven that a disruption in Iranian oil would bring the global economy to a screeching halt, and if they were to do so on purpose, would we, rabid for oil, invade?

In that situation, a world willing to kill anyone to get its precious drink, nuclear weapons would be the only true deterrent. That was one of my reasons for thinking the US knew that Iraq had no WMDs. Because if they had possessed them, we would have never invaded so willy-nilly.

It's Iran's right to withhold the oil it owns. But isn't it also our right to protect the interests of our people, even if that means taking what others have? Do we have as much a right to invade and take the oil as Iran does to keep it, with no real way of utilizing it, because we need it to maintain security of our economy? Would humanitarians stop crying foul when gas hits $15 a gallon?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Continuing on Freedom.

There is some really boring woman on C-SPAN, right now, discussing the death toll of the Civil War (Which has been officially classified as 'A Fuck-Load'), and it immediately made me think about it in relation to freedom.

For example, wasn't the Civil War the very definition of a drive for independence? What made its drive different from the original colonies' drive from Britain? I really can't think of a reason why it was any different. Many people will say it was about slavery, but that is amazingly inaccurate and it's puzzling as to why that aspect of the conflict became the default, pop-reason for the war.

There were major cultural, economic, and social differences between the North and the South. The conflict had been brewing for decades. And, really, who was the North to dictate to the South how they should run their states? The North had all the population, all the votes, and all the power. The South was a second-class citizen in a two-person world. I think they had a right to secede.

Remember, they didn't attack. They didn't invade border towns above the Mason Dixon Line. They simply announced their separation and then we invaded them and started killing people. When you put it in that terms, it makes the North sound like assholes. And I think it really was because we were. We had no right to invade.

And, in retrospect, I REALLY wish we hadn't. Can you imagine how great this country would be without Texas, Louisiana, and Kentucky?

Frankly, I doubt the South could have even made it as a country. They probably would have ended up coming back. And I'm glad we put some smack down, er, put down some smack, because slavery is beyond disgusting and I think it important that we eliminated it from our continent when we did.

Still, the entire country has a weird amnesia when it comes to grotesque infringement on freedom that we perpetrated against our own kind. They copied what we had done four score and seven before, and we invaded them for it. If only they had won.

If only.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th.

It's the fourth of July, a big day in the United States. I thought it only fitting to ruminate on what I think it means to be free, and whether our government gets the job done, or if we should have another revolution and start the whole thing over.

Freedom is basically defined as the ability to act without coercion or restriction. Obviously, if you delve very deeply into this you can dig up some absolutely ridiculous philosophical fluff. For example, how do we know we are free to act as we see fit? How do we know that our actions are not being guided by an omnipotent, invisible hand.

This hand needn't be God. We could live in the Matrix. We could be subtly manipulated by the Illuminati, or whatever secret society you choose. We could be the product of our upbringing, powerless to escape the course chosen for us by our parents, and our parent's parents. We could be at the mercy of Human nature, only capable of acting as our ancient evolution dictates. And if you really want to fuck with your own head, how can we be free from defined events if the universe is causal and predictable, as science is predicated, and all events are determined by preceding events. We have no choice but to be part of the grand, galactic machine that birthed us, defines us, and is us.

But that's all academic. What about practical freedom? By this I mean the general meaning of freedom as freedom from oppression, from fear, from dictators, and from Oprah.

I consider freedom to be the governments perview, and only freedom. Government should be concerned with freedom, and what effect its actions will have on freedom. Perhaps we should celebrate our freedom with both explosions and drunken revelry and a nationwide discussion of freedom and how critical it is to our lives. I think discussions of freedom are especially relevant since the abject obsession with it by our forefathers, and their subsequent actions, is one of the things that truly separates the United States from other countries, and one of the few things that makes me a reluctant patriot when I say the USA is the greatest country on Earth.

We so quickly take for granted the freedom that is subtly, tightly, and intricately woven into every aspect of our government that we seem all to happy to fritter it away to whatever fear-mongering ideologue is filling the television screen. We did nothing to stop the Patriot Act, without doubt one of the greatest infringements on our freedom in decades. Has it made us any safer? That is debatable, with my own opinion being ABSOLUTELY NOT, but it has certainly made us less free.

We take for granted that in this country, we can say and do whatever we please. Books, movies, and video games frequently get banned in other, supposedly advanced cultures like Australia, Germany, and Japan. They have censorship and restrictions that would make Thomas Jefferson wince. Yet, there are loud, vociferous groups who ceaselessly push to have certain books banned from schools, or television shows cancelled, or video games restricted. Not for scientific reasons. Not for practical reasons. For fearful, stupid reasons.

I emphasized stupid because I want everyone to know that I find these people stupid. STUPID. STUPID. If you in any way advocate censorship, you are stupid. You are a dumb, motherfucker whom I would as soon spit on as say hello. The country was designed from the very beginning to prevent you from ever making a difference, and I thank the framers of our constitution, I thank the courts who continually smack you down, and I thank Xenu, that you thrash and scream to no end. And perhaps most damning and insulting, I find you un-American.

I think government should think about its actions vis a vis freedom in all cases. Even seemingly benign cases. Eliminating paperwork to give people freedom from time wasted, for example. One of the greatest examples I can think of is freedom from reasonable fear. I say reasonable because people are unreasonably afraid all the time. It is not reasonable to be afraid of asteroids from space (unless you're Bruce Willis), the race wars, Satan, and gay people, who are apparently in cahoots with Satan. It is reasonable to be afraid of bodily harm by other people, robbery, wild boars, and Sean Young. Thus, we do not have laws against gays, at least laws that are enforced, we do not have an orbital laser cannon defense system, no matter how much the Pentagon wants one, we do not have a governmental holy army, and we do not have crack teams of Aryan warriors.

But freedom from and fredom to are different concepts, and in many ways freedom from and to are at loggerheads. I do not have freedom from taxes, but those taxes give me freedom to call the police if I need help. I liked the national highway system, because the freedom to get from point A to point B in a short time exceeded the freedom lost from the new, higher taxes. I support national health care because the freedom from worry about hospital bills exceeds the freedom to spend my possible taxes as I please. In other words, it would cost far more to achieve the same freedom from worry than the taxes I would pay.

So yeah, I'll be updating this as I think.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't Ask, Too Bad.

In an upcoming episode of 60 Minutes, they cover the recent resistance to the long-running Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy. They interview a military man by the name of Daniel Davis, the mental titan pictured above, has some arguments against. Let's pick these apart.

"Our purpose in the military... is about fighting and winning the nation's wars"

Spot on! Something tells me that gays can pull a trigger and kill 'dem a sand nigger just like all 'dem udder country boys.

"Military troops are generally conservative and allowing gays to serve openly would offend them and jeopardize battle effectiveness."

Oh no! Offend the poor widdle soldier boys! We can't have that! We can't let a soldier worry that the pickle-smoker behind him won't shoot the bad guy because he's too busy checking out the soldier's ass.

Shut up! They're fucking soldiers (in the case of the gays, literally). If merely being offended by something causes them to act erratically, you don't want to be giving them guns!

"In my view, men are going to die, units are going to fail that would otherwise not fail."

If that is the case, I can't stress enough how much better off the world would be with these men dead.

But, didn't people say the same things about blacks? "You know, I've heard that many times." Yet it worked. "However, if you have a moral or religious issue you cannot order me to bond and cohese with that person because it is morally repugnant to me."

Ok, great job on not answering the question. "people have told me that. I just ignore them." And he called it a moral or religious issue. Moral? MORAL? Define a moral, jackass. Morals change with the times. They always have. Back in the day, people HAD moral issues with blacks. People hated blacks. If this guy was around during the Little Rock Nine, he would have kept the blacks out to "maintain cohesion."

What offends people can be anything. Religion, morals; it all changes. If anyone is offended by gays, you can't order them to bond, but you can order them to shut up and perform. What offends them could be ANYTHING. Heard about atheists in major sports? They get harassed and ostracized. You cannot cater to bigotry and stupidity because it knows no bounds.

There are gay men in the world. The US Military better make its peace with, oh right, REALITY.

Also, bond and cohese? Cohese? Let's look that up. Yep. Not a word.

They later interview a high-ranking official from the British military, saying how allowing gays to serve openly has had no effect. Another open-minded paragon of intelligence and rational thought, Congressman Duncan Hunter (pictured) then says that the US is not Europe, and we CANNOT have gays in the military because the other countries are pussies and they can have gays serving because they don't fight real wars. Oh right. That's a good point. We need nice, pliant idiots to further our wild, unilateral wars on... everyone, apparently.

"He argues that gays do not belong in the US military, because US troops need to be hardened warriors, unlike soldiers in the fifteen NATO countries where gays serve openly."

Let's see now... yep, same argument was used against blacks in WWII to explain why they were only ever used as pack mules and not in fighting situations. Because we needed hardened, skilled warriors. Not those poor, dumb niggers. It's amazing that this guy just called every other country a bunch of pussies with a straight face. No WONDER the world hates us.

"The Fallujahs of the world. The Ramadis of the world, require heavy combat and lots of firefighting capabilities. Those are the places the Americans go.

Yep, because we invade them!

"The other countries tend to go to the peacekeeper zones, where they have fewer firefights... And the European nations show little will to send large contingents of their fighting forces into dangerous places."

Perhaps it's because they realize that they don't have any reason to send their troops there. Perhaps America's obsession with having far-flung military bases on every square centimeter of the globe is really fucking stupid. Perhaps.

Hunter says that now is not the time for change.

"When we risk doing away with this system that works..."

Works? WORKS?! 4,000 gays per year do not re-enlist because of DADT. The military is enlisting felons, retards, and fat guys in huge numbers because they're so desperate. If he says this works, I'd hate to see his definition of broken.

"Where American families sit around the dinner table and they make a decision that their young man or young woman is going to go into this military because they share the values of that military..."

Gee, I thought those values included justice, freedom, happiness, and defense against tyranny. Fear, stupidity, bigotry, and defense against fudge-packers. And also, shouldn't it be the choice of the young man/woman. Why is this a family meeting in this weird fucker's mind?

"...or should we experiment at a time when our military is totally volunteer. When it's extremely capable and perhaps lose that capability or perhaps lose those numbers and lose those re-enlistments (like the 4,000 gays lost each year?) and perhaps lose that effectiveness."

This man is so wrong he's off the chart. Now is always the best time for change. And history has shown, it's those who fight change who are vilified and then forgotten. Those who stand in defense of change; of the unknown, they are the ones who are forever remembered.

Don't Ask Don't Tell (Via Yahoo! CBS News)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Genius

Genius gets talked about a lot. The Discovery Channel runs some special about this savant or the other on a daily basis, t-shirts get emblazoned with Einstein's mug, and great brains get dissected to try and locate the seat of genius.

I find this stupid. I don't think genius exists at all. Genius is an actualization, not a state. I cannot be a genius, I can only perform acts of genius. For example, say I score a 200 on an IQ test, thus classifying me a genius, but I then go off and work in a burger joint for the rest of my life. Was I actually a genius? If I was, what worth is the classification in the first place? Who cares if you're a genius or not if you're flipping burgers?

But there are people in the world who are profoundly retarded; to such a degree as to be incapable of feeding themselves. And yet, if given clay, they can sculpt perfect models of things they saw only once. Or paint portraits of stunning beauty. Or design buildings. Or compose music. These would undeniably be called acts of genius, but calling these people geniuses would be silly on its face. So if people who are not geniuses, do things of genius, and geniuses can live pointless, boring lives, what are we to determine?

I think the only conclusion is that genius is a reality. I am only a genius insofar as I have performed acts of genius. And an IQ test is only useful insofar as it has predictive power to say whether a person is likely to create things of genius or not. For example, Marilyn vos Savant, a very famous smart person. To what level has her genius brought her? She writes a weekly newspaper column. Or perhaps William James Sidis, perhaps the smartest man in history. Have you ever heard of him? I didn't think so.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Justified... Again.

When do you know something? The study of epistemology is pretty much obsessed with that question and it's one of the few areas of modern philosophy that I feel has real ramifications on everyday life. As opposed to just jerking off your mental meat for the sake of feeling smart, I like intellectual endeavors that result in some sort of lesson, or nugget of wisdom that I can then apply to my next conversation, or automobile accident, whichever comes first.

Being able to focus on whether I am actually justified in a belief or not is really important. Just think about what would have happened if the entire country and applied that sort of thinking on the Iraq war. Would we be there? Because that entire invasion was predicated on whether we were justified in believing that Saddam Insane had atomic bombs. I think, especially now, that regardless of all the government's posturing and grand-standing, that we did NOT know that Iraq had very big go-booms.

Knowledge is also a complex situation. Can we ever know something. What does it mean to know something? If I believe something, and it's true, did that make it knowledge? What if I believe something because I'm nuts, and have no real reason to believe that there is a man named Robert currently hunting for lemurs on Madagascar. If it turns out there is that man, did that mean I knew it. Pretty obviously not.

So it means that I must believe something with good reason and then have it be true. But what is good reason? I won't even get to what makes something true or untrue. We'll simply go under the assumption that something is true if an observation of reality confirms it. It is true that Robert is hunting lemurs if someone sees him doing it.

But how can you know that person isn't lying? And even if you saw Robert, yourself, how do you know it wasn't someone dressed up as Robert. How can you be sure? Your belief may not actually correspond to reality. Even your observations may not correspond to reality. These sorts of questions are critically important in legal cases and they get brought up frequently because witnesses are so frequently wrong. People believe they are correct but turn out not to be. But from their perspective, they were totally correct and justified. They had a belief, it corresponded to reality, so where's the problem?

I'm someone who believes that truth can, sadly, never be attained. We have one real truth, and that is I think, therefore I am. Doesn't help us much when we're trying to finger a bank robber. The best we can hope for is degrees of justification. You can really name them whatever you want. Not/sort of/mildly/very/perfectly. It doesn't matter. What matters is that any knowledge is subject to what we can observe. That's the very foundation of science. And as such knowledge is forever in doubt. And because of that, you can never have knowledge. Since knowledge requires believing something that is true, and we can never be sure if a belief is true. Thus, knowledge doesn't exist and all we're left with is beliefs that have varying degrees of justification. Again, I point to Iraq as a great example.

Because of this, I always work towards justification. I actually think that there is a dividing line. One that, if we could apply a number to each of the variables that affect the decision, we could arrive at and say "I am 47% justified." Unfortunately, in a complex belief system like the one of everyday life, it's impossible to actually apply numbers to every, single belief. If we could, we could actually draw a line between justified and unjustified.

Many people would argue that real truth must exist. Statements can be made, reality, whatever it is, is sure to exist, and as such statements must be able to be made that correspond to reality. I agree. But truth and knowledge are different things. Even if I make a statement that is true, because of imperfect perceptions of reality, I can never know it to be true, and as such do not have knowledge. If I can't have it. I don't care. Most people who disagree with me are foundationalists.

Stop obsessing about something you can never have! We can be justified in our beliefs and actions. I think that's fine in a world defined by uncertainty. We can get awfully close to truth and knowledge, and that's a shit-load more than most people ever think about or achieve, all you have to do is look at Iraq.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Much Does Your Dick Cost?

Men spend a lot of money on women, but trust me, they spend even more on their dicks. This can be explained in any number of ways (Men are peacocks without feathers, so they buy feathers), but all that really needs to be said is that they do.

I set out to try and determine how much of a given product's cost goes to a person's cock. I call it the penis tax. I figure a good place to try and figure an equation for this would be cars, since the penis tax is so painfully, obviously, blindingly apparent.

I propose as follows...

Sale value - Actual Value = Penis Tax

Sale value = MSRP + Average dealer markup

Actual value = MSRP - (MSRP - Average price of cars in category)

Dealers LOVE to vacuum as much money from your pockets as they can, and they know full well when they have a hot product that will cause men to toss common sense out the car window. Because, I would argue, they know that you if you're looking, you probably can't get laid without this car.

To figure the average markup, I hit eBay and searched for an example car and found the highest price for a new example that had bids on it. This indicates the price that men with small pee-pees are willing to pay. To test the equation, I used the Ferrari 599 GTB (drool).

MSRP: 273,845
Sale Value: 375,100

The $375,100 number is the highest amount on which people were bidding. Now, Ferrari's have some penis tax built in. I mean, duh. A car that costs more than the average American home can only exist because a penis is involved in both its manufacture and eventual purchase. So to determine that a car is factory-made too expensive, we can only claim its overpriced if cars that are its competitors are cheaper. So we have to figure the average price of cars that someone in the market might buy.

This is tricky. What constitutes direct competition? Style? Price? Performance? I tried to include all of these in my short list of competition. This is where a little art sneaks into the computation.

1.Porsche GT2: $200,000;
2.Porsche GT3 RS: $124,000;
3.Aston Martin DBS: $262,000;
4.Chevrolet Corvette Z06: $71,275;
5.Nissan GT-R: $71,900;
6.Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera: $223,040;
7.Lamborghini Gallardo: $185,600;
8.Lamborghini LP640: $334,400;
9.Mercedes CLK AMG Black: $135,000

I debated whether I should include penis tax into the competitor list, as well. I decided against it because I was afraid that the stupidity of men would skew the results and I stuck with the MSRPs of the list. I figure that the manufacturers know how much their friggin' products are worth.

So the averages of the list are...

With outliers included: $178,579
With outliers removed: $188,273

So, amazingly, the actual value of the 599GTB ends up being the exact average of competitors. I swear I didn't plan this. That ends up with a penis tax of a stunning $196,521. The cost of many people's homes, going to some dudes member. I don't know about you, but that's fucked up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Answer is Still Blowing in the Wind

FINALLY, someone with money is making a bet on alternative power. And not these ridiculous, PR-bullshit bets like "hydrogen fuel cells." No, this is an actual bet. One intended to actually change things. And actually generate power. And not, actually, just keep the public distracted with dreams of the future while we continue to happily careen headlong into the days without oil. I never thought I'd be saying this about someone named T. Boone Pickens, but, brother, I love you.

Maverick oilman Pickens puts $2B bet on wind power
Thursday May 15, 10:09 am ET
By Adam Schreck, AP Business Writer
Maverick oilman T. Boone Pickens places $2 billion bet on wind power in massive Texas project

NEW YORK (AP) -- Maverick oilman T. Boone Pickens has placed a $2 billion bet on wind power in just the first of a four-phase project to build the world's largest wind farm in Texas.

Pickens said the total cost of the deal will grow considerably after the initial investment in General Electric Co. turbine technology.

Pickens' Mesa Power said the Pampa Wind Project in the Texas Panhandle will eventually cover 400,000 acres and generate enough power for more than 1.3 million homes.

"We are making Pampa the wind capital of the world," Pickens said. "It's clear that landowners and local officials understand the economic benefits that this renewable energy can bring not only to landowners who are involved with the project, but also in revitalizing an area that has struggled in recent years."

Pickens, who was born in nearby Oklahoma and made the early part of his fortune hunting for oil and natural gas, said that developing alternative energy projects is critical for the nation's future.

"You find an oilfield, it peaks and starts declining, and you've got to find another one to replace it," Pickens said in a statement. "With wind, there's no decline curve."

Power from the project will begin coming on line in early 2011, he said.

GE is expected to deliver 667, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines in 2010 and 2011.

"As America's demand for energy escalates, it is clear that wind can and will play a bigger part in meeting that need," said Jeffrey R. Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO. "We're excited to partner with an energy visionary like T. Boone Pickens to bring our wind technology to the marketplace."

But the industry has relied on federal tax credits to survive, a point Pickens underscored Thursday.

"I believe that Congress will recognize that it is critical not only to this project, but to renewable energy in this country, that they enact a long-term extension of the Production Tax Credits," Pickens said.

Oil prices hit a trading record near $127 a barrel Tuesday.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Might Explain Timmy's Obsession With That Well

A recent article on HealthDay, and linked-to on Yahoo!'s homepage, reveals that parents know surprisingly little about their children and the way they should or should not be.

Really?! No! All parents are rational, intelligent, informed people! That's the reason every child in America grows up into well-rounded, sane adults.

Ok, as someone who's had the honor of working with parents, I'm not kidding when I say that large sections of our population should not be having children. Many parents than you would like to think about do not actually want their children. The only thing tying them to this tiny bag of puke and shit is some nebulous, primal mechanism nested may back in their hind brain. Every, single other aspect of their brain expresses annoyance.

Obviously, this is far from the rule, but in my exposure, as much as one in ten parents quite visibly didn't want their children. Refrigerator parents, if you will. And the majority is quickly included as you move up the spectrum of interest and love. It's disgusting. DO NOT HAVE KIDS IF YOU AREN'T ONE-HUNDRED-FUCKING-PERCENT POSITIVE YOU WANT THEM! Is it really that hard?!

And I'd say that the numbers of just plain-freaking-stupid people having kids shoots up to 70%. Nice people. Caring people. Really, truly want the children. Dumb as rugs. Not dumb in the sense that they have low IQ's, no. I met many parents with IQ's somewhere two floors up. Still, the research skills and dedication to education on a subject is seriously lacking in large swaths of the child-pooping populace.

It really makes me think that we should have some Big Brother going on. Perhaps a law that requires you to take child development classes before you can have kids. Again, not haaard. I mean, come ON, parents not knowing that children before a certain developmental step do not understand right and wrong? Are you shocked that the little booger-eater can't do long division, as well?!

So, yeah. A bit pissed off? I am. Bad parenting is something that infuriates me beyond reason. When I seee someone in a grocery store with some child having a temper tantrum, or some white trash teenager ignoring her toddler to bitch at the baby-daddy, I want to just fucking stab them.

There is greatness hidden amongst our children. We never know who will be the next Van Gogh or Einstein. And every child lost to bad parenting is one lost chance for the next great person.

One-Third of Parents Lack Facts About Child Development (HealthDay)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Wind Farms

Wind farms are one of our best hopes for reliable, renewable power. They can go day or night, are easy to maintain, and are, importantly, comparatively cheap to set up. Still, a frequent criticism I hear is that they're eye sores. Now, I don't know if people are actually saying this or if it's just part of the campaign against anything that doesn't burn, but... what?

Eye sores? I just don't see it. I think they're tall, elegant towers of design. They are one of the few things that look like something out of a sci-fi from fifty years ago. They look cool! How the hell can you call them eye sores? Do these same people call houses eye sores? Or anything that people build? Are they just out of their fucking minds? Would you rather have a belching, coal-fired power plant?

They look like giant, man-made, moving flowers. Hell, we can even paint them pretty colors. I look at them and see a future of mankind living in a deeply connected, symbiotic relationship with nature. They represent a world where we can get everything we want and cause no damage at all. Well, except for a few birds. I think they're beautiful and anyone who thinks otherwise, though artistic merits are by their very nature subjective, is wrong. I don't think you could be any more wrong than if you called the Sistine Chapel amateurish.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Science x Religion = Scigion?

In a recent issue of the New York Times, the John Templeton Foundation. They're a scientific finance group that used to sponsor Nova. They've instead gotten into running large, two-page ads in the Times about "The Big Questions." Such as: who is Britney dating, and, where can I get g00d che@p \/|@gra from C@n@d@?

The most recent one was; Does science make belief in God obsolete? They solicited answers from a wide variety of people, I give them credit, including one of my heroes, Michael Shermer. They also got Christopher Hitchens, who is always entertaining. I do wish they had gotten more people with hard-core philosophical backgrounds. They got a few with theological training, and ONE person, Mary Midgley, with focus on ethics. But this has nothing to do with ethics. Where are the epistemologists and metaphysicists? They had boat-loads of physicists and biologists, a few priests, and one very devout guy, but no philosophers.

I think the question was also formulated poorly, since almost everyone re-stated the question before answering it. Surprisingly, most of them re-stated it similarly. I, too, restate it. I find the question multi-faceted. The first question is “can someone believe in science and God simultaneously,” and “can someone be a scientist and believe in God.”

The answer to the first question is no, and the answer to the second is yes. “Belief,” as it were, in science requires an acceptance of causality, probability, and basing thought and actions on these two tenets. I do not cower in a closet for fear of being killed by a rogue baseball, since the probability of that is very low. Likewise, since God is outside of causality, probability, and inquiry, there is no reason to believe. So, yes, a dedicated belief in causality and probability and the analysis thereof negates if not the actual existence of God, but the belief.

Science can be done by anyone, though. It can be done passively and effectively. How long this will be true is anyone’s guess, since most of our scientific tinkering is still in its earliest stages. What of the days when we will manipulate the very fabric of space-time. I think we will find it much harder to simply work with what is in front of us and assume the existence of a divine entity in the wings, watching over us. But the point remains, anyone can do science by observing, recording, predicting, and controlling. On the face of it, it’s obvious that religious belief need not intrude on this activity at all. My belief in God does not affect my ability to make a better television or cancer drug.

I think the question is better stated as whether it is possible to live a religious life and a scientific life simultaneously, and that is a resounding no. One cannot accept the tenets of science as a system by which to live a life and the tenets of religion. Science requires inquiry, experiment, and prediction. Religion requires the abandonment of all three. Religion requires the baseless assumption of God, faith, and the assumption that He is outside our ken. Science rejects that.

Obviously, it could be argued that a religious foundation and a scientific foundation are fundamentally equal. We are unsure of God's existence, but we are also unsure of our own existence. All we know is that we think, therefore we are. So the world may be an illusion, and as such scientific inquiry is as much a figment of our imagination as religion is.

This is true, but this figment is involuntary and universal amongst people. Religion, however, is not. We have to think about religion, come up with it, and watch it evolve. Religion has changed, human perception has not. I am just sitting here, having my perceptions forced on me. I have no rational reason to doubt them to such a degree as believe The Matrix is real. If I must base the world on something, it may be the things I do not have to contemplate.

At least this question was better farmed than the Does the Universe Have a Purpose? question. Again, where are all the philosophers?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This Just Gets Better

Somewhere back there, I wrote a post about Ben Stein going from quirky b-list celebrity to first-rate idiot for producing a movie supporting intelligent design. I'm sorry, but if you believe ID, that goes beyond the boundaries of religion. You're just dumb. And boy, I couldn't have hoped for this movie to be any dumber.

Apparently, they interview a variety of big names in the skeptical, scientific, and biological world in a search for evidence that scientists all know that ID is true, they're just keeping it secret, seemingly because they hate Jews. I'm not kidding! I haven't seen the movie, but the Darwin/Hitler connection is supposedly harped on for some time. Well, the scientists are pretty pissed.

They say that they're words are being twisted, they encountered bizarre interview techniques that seemed more like an interrogation (repeated questions, etc.), and, most importantly, all of the "academics" who were let go or refused advancement suffered not because they believed in ID, but because they were just sucky academics.

So read up! Enjoy the hullaballoo. The brouhaha, if you will. Oh, with a film about academics expelling ideas, they were smart enough to expel PZ Myers from the screening. Smart. Intelligent, even.

New Anti-Evolution Film Stirs Controversy (Livescience.com)
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Scientific American's Take (Scientific American)
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin (Scientific American)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Do I Hate Women or Just Think They Suck?

There is a really interesting discussion about the difference between misogyny and sexism over on a New York Times blog. If you have a good couple of hours you might be able to read the 170+ comments, but it's somewhat worth it. There are a remarkable number of well-thought-out comments and only a small amount of sniping and name-calling.

Misogyny Vs. Sexism (Via The New York Times)


That is the sound of an idea. A recent issue, the March 24th, of Time Magazine was dedicated to them. They mention the term paradigm shift, referring to a fundamental change in perception, such as when people started to realize the Earth was not the center of the universe. Not only did I find the ten ideas listed to come nowhere near that benchmark for the term, most of them are already old-hat.

1: The Common Wealth- Yes. Wouldn't the world be nice if we were all rich and happy. Well drop this stupid, hippy idea and wake up to reality. This concept has been floating around for decades. There will always be amazingly rich people and amazingly poor people. It's the end result of an economic spectrum. Going global with this just means we'll have rich and poor countries. And, sorry to say, the world economy is far ahead of any humanitarians in thinking globally. Business is very worried about the environment, world peace, and all these other great ideals because problems in any area mean lost money. This article is almost superfluous because people already know these things.

Oh, and 100mpg cars in 2030? Try 2010. We'll have those running around in very short order with $10 gas.

2: The End of Customer Service- Apparently, those self-checkouts at Wal*Mart are a paradigm shift. "...the need to interact with human beings is quickly disappearing." Anyone who has interacted with those HAL-like nightmares knows that there is still a very big place for human interaction. Especially after waiting at a kiosk behind a 4,000 year-old woman as she tries to figure out which way to swipe this new-fangled credit card.

3: The Post-Movie-Star Era- The death of modern Hollywood has been predicted before. People have known that big name stars do not correlate well with move success for some times. They should have talked about the emergence of the 15-Minutes-of-Fame era, compliments of the internet and YouTube. Big name stars will continue to be a thing because their names mean little, only that a big name is attached, thus indicating a big movie. They mention Ratatouille, Alvin & The Chipmunks, and Transformers as bucking the system. No, idiots. The big names in those movies were the brands, themselves. You didn't need big stars to advertise that it was a big movie.

4: Reverse Radicalism- What? Ok, fine, studying terrorists. I'll support that. But a paradigm shift?

5: Kitchen Chemistry- Again, a paradigm shift? I think not. They set up a straw man in the opening paragraph by saying "you've been cooking like an idiot. You press on meat... to guess how rare it is; you trow spagetti at the wall to see if it's done; you add an amount of salt that looks pretty... If people made medicine this way, we'd all be dead." We are not changing the way we cook forever. Many people are very precise, analytical, and scientific about their food. We've been this way for centuries. Hell, 300 years ago, food was more scientific than it is now. This not new. People have been precise, anal, and analytical about food for a long time. Oh, and molecular gastronomy has been around for decades. It has not caught on because it's a niche product.

6: Geoengineering- This is a good idea, but certainly not a paradigm shift. These ideas have all been around for some time. In the early days in an effort to manipulate the weather for farming.

7: Synthetic Authenticity- Basically a business model. It's been around since at least the 60's and pretty much defines modern marketing. And seriously, there is not such thing as a paradigm shift in advertising.

8: The New Austerity- Yet another credit doomsayer. He lists all the previous doomsayers who were wrong in the first paragraph as though that gives this doomsaying credibility. The fact that I kind of agree with him notwithstanding, this isn't a paradigm shift.

9: Mandatory Health- Paradigm shift? New idea? Really? Go ask Milton Hershey who created Hershey, PA as a healthful haven for all employees. They could live there on the cheap... as long as they exercised, didn't do anything naughty, and were early to bed, early to rise, and all that rot.

10: Re-Judaising Jesus- There are so many fucking splinter groups of Christianity, they've given up the ability to have a paradigm shift. Every idea, EVER, has been posited and discussed. Nowadays, you have a paradigm shift by switching religion, which for many people, according to a recent study, happens once every few days.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hey, FDR Had Polio. It Can't Be All Bad

Ok, Jenny McCarthy, a paragon of intelligence and scientific inquiry if there ever was one, appeared on Larry King to discuss autism. Her son was apparently diagnosed with autism three years ago, but, get this, he's O-K now.

Sure. Because you know how autism can be cured with a good vegetarian diet and "detoxification." Detoxification is one of the worst examples of new age dietary garbage. As though the world is toxic and good vegan foods are cleansing. Please. Show me the data! Show me the chemical equations showing how asparagus scrubs heavy metals from my flesh. You twits.

McCarthy said that "I believe that parents' anecdotal information is science-based information." Really? You believe that, do ya'? And that is why you aren't a scientist. Anecdotal evidence is the very opposite of scientific or science-based (whatever the fuck that is) information. If we relied on anecdotal information, werewolves, witches, possession, and miracles would all be scientific. And she REPEATS that, twice, just to absolutely drive home the fact that she is not a scientist.

This was especially interesting for me because, as I said in an earlier post, I don't think autism is a thing. It's a pattern of behavior that could be caused by damn-near anything. If her son stopped displaying the behavior pattern, which I can't confirm, he never had autism, in the psychiatric sense. Maybe he just liked acting weird.

Everything McCarthy says seems to indicate that she knows little to nothing about autism. She calls it a global epidemic. I wonder if the young woman from my previous post had anything to say about that. First things first, an it is an epidemic in only a pop-usage of the word. An actual epidemic is a disease, and a disease has a pathogen. In CNN-ese, drug use is an epidemic, but in epidemiology, it's an epidemic only if it has a pathogenic cause. The very vaccines she campaigns against are tools against actual epidemics. Autism as an epidemic exists only in the mind of alarmist news shows.

And even assuming that we can use the word 'epidemic' in the sense she does, the data on which she's likely relying does not indicate a rise in autism, only a rise in diagnosis, which could mean multiple things. We have yet to prove if autism is a thing and if we don't know what it is, how the hell can be diagnosis it? We don't say more people are becoming gay, we just say more of them are coming out of the closet.

She also, like so, so, so, so, so many other parents, reveals herself to know little to nothing about the way vaccines work. They can not have some magical, undetectable effect on the body in such a way to cause vaguely similar symptoms across a large population. If it doesn't cause the same things, it's not the cause. Vaccines can, at the most, cause the illness they're trying to prevent. If they had some other effect, the physiological results would be apparent in the same way we can see them in drug trial patients. These things cannot, I repeat, cannot have an untraceable effect on the circuitry of the brain. We... would... SEE IT. We'd see degradation to the myelin of the neurons. We'd see increases or decreases in neurotransmitters. Damage of the magnitude required to cause autistic behavior does not go unnoticed. And the data support me. You cannot fix vaccine damage because there is no damage to fix.

The show than plays a tape of McCarthy and her son being all cute. This is a disgusting tug at the viewers heart strings. Of course McCarthy loves her son. I'm sure whatever is ailing him has ripped her apart. And big surprise that she, and many other parents with autistic children are lashing out at anything they can to explain why their babies are broken. But this isn't about how much she loves her son. This is about a famous person planting the seeds of illogical fear into a large audience, and for that, she should be ripped apart.

Off subject, but her hair is ridiculous.

She talks about Defeat Autism Now, which itself refers to "autism spectrum." How the hell can you defeat it if you don't know what it is. Why not just call it "Defeat Weird Behavior Now." And again, you do not cure autism. If you cured it, it wasn't autism and we wouldn't have all these damned news shows talking about it. I would wager all the money in the world that you could see similar results with a cheesecake cure. Take kids brought in with autism spectrum and feed them nothing but cheesecake and you'll see similar results to what they're seeing now. And from my perspective, I'd be more worried about the massive seizures he was having as a child as opposed to some nebulous diagnosis of autism. And the seizures he continues to have are more worrying than anything else.

One of the exerpts brought on after the break says that vaccines don't cause autism, but they contribute to autism. He even then says that "nothing's proven." Well, if nothing's proven, shut up. Another expert, a pediatrician mocked McCarthy after she pointed to a list of 36 vaccines and asked if we really need them all. He said "which disease do you want your child to get?" The SciAm blog I linked asks if talking down to her helps the scientific community or makes her more sympathetic. I don't think so. She was being an ass. Her question of "Do we need THEM ALL" relies on emotion and an implication of excess. As though people listening will agree on a gut level "Jesus, that's a lot." It's relying on the ignorance and fear of a population that is distrustful of medicine, doctors, drugs, and shit they don't understand. My answer would have been subtly mocking, but much more straight-forward. I would have just said "yes."

The same expert that supports McCarthy said that we have to analyze the risks and benefits. Yes! Exactly! That's what we have to do! Too bad he than says that the risks of immunization outweigh the benefits, which is totally bunk. He says nothing's proven. The benefits of immunization are proven. Proven outweighs unproven. He's making no sense whatsoever. He also talks about the immune system, implying he says that autism may have something with do with an autoimmune response to the vaccines. Again, where's the damage, Mansley? In all autoimmune disorders, we can see the damage clearly in either scans, samples, or autopsy.

And the Amish comment is way off base. They are a small, closed-off population of less than 200,000. You cannot, in any way, generalize them to a population. One would have to get scientifically verifiable information of a massive group, ranging across cultures and genetic lines, to verify the correlation between vaccination and no vaccination. There is a definite link between autism and heritability, and the Amish are all Germanic, and they marry within their own group. With all that inbreeding, I wonder what other, wacky illnesses they have.

And their final point, the vaccine study; sounds like a great idea, but even assuming we could gather a large enough group, but there are some pretty serious ethical problems. We would need to assign vaccines and placebo on a random basis. We could not only allow parents who are anti-vaccine in because that confounds the study. The participants must be equal. And let's say it's discovered that there is no link between autism and vaccine. We know that there is a link between vaccine and illness, so the kids that got the placebo and die from smallpox render the study ethically impossible. And boy howdy, if you think you've seen parents angry about autism, kids that were killed by lack of vaccine will trigger the lawsuit to end all lawsuits.

Pediatrician zings Jenny McCarthy over vaccines and autism (Scientific American)