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.