Monday, December 13, 2010

Memorable Quotes of the Year

I hear that a Yale professor has compiled a list of memorable quotes of 2010. Hmm... sounds like a fun idea, even though the year's not completely over yet. Before I trundle off to read his list, I'd like to compile my own. I expect that most will be political, as this was an election year. So without further rambling, and in order of how the pop up in my head, here they are:

1. At the top of my list is Nancy Pelosi's incredible statement, "... We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it..."; referring, of course, to the 'Obamacare' health-care reform bill.

-- Was she joking, or is she seriously ignorant about the way American legislation is supposed to be carried out? Or is the answer, perhaps, behind Door #3? Here's a hint: she wasn't joking.

2. Next up, Christine O'Donnell's political advertisement stating, "I am not a witch."

-- One thing you should know in any advertising campaign, including a political one, is that you should never, ever do your opponent's work for them. This ad simply dignifies charges that would otherwise be held to be ridiculous. In so doing, and with other gaffes, she solidly earned her loss.

3. Helen Thomas, referring to the people of Israel, said, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine." Pressed to answer where the Jews should go, she followed up with "They should go home, to Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else."

-- Hmm. Apparently, this country offers both free education and whatever the hell Helen Thomas got in place of an education. (Oddly, while you can find dozens of videos portraying the Pelosi quote above, it's difficult to find more than this Fox news clip of Helen Thomas. I'd've preferred one with just the quote.)

4. Buzz Aldrin, of Apollo 11 fame, gives us this gem in support of President Obama's scrapping of plans to put a permanent base on the Moon: "We've already been to the moon -- some 40 years ago."   (click the picture to read a New Scientist article about the policy changes)
-- correction, Buzz. You've stood on the Moon (though Mike Collins didn't). Meanwhile, all of the reasons we wanted to go there wand establish a permanent base in the 1960s remain unfulfilled.

5. Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather gave us this gem about President Obama: "...he couldn't sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down traffic."

--  With this unfortunate imagery, Rather manages to prove that no matter how big his foot gets, he can still fit it in his mouth.

6. In July, the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince did a bizarre interview with The Daily Mirror, in which he declared that his album, 20TEN, would be distributed only on CDs in the Mirror on July 10th, and not on the Internet at all. Why? He says: "The internet's completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it. The internet's like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you." (click on the picture to read the interview)
-- Throughout the decade of the 2000s, Prince primarily released his records through his on-line subscription service, He even won a "lifetime achievement" Webby award for it.. Hmm.... on second thought, judging from this interview, "can't be good for you" may be the understatement of the century.

7. Sharron Angle, while campaigning for the US Senate seat she lost to Harry Reid, opined, "I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

-- Memorable indeed. Supremely unfortunate is the wording, "take Harry Reid out". That's as in, "replace him through a peaceful vote", not "assassinate him". Many people agreed about replacing him, but Obama has inoculated the electorate against change for change's sake. We now know to make sure the 'change' is for the better. The election was Angle's to lose, and with repeated quips like that she lost it. (To be honest, it was a little difficult picking a most memorable Sharron Angle quote. Her font is as deep as Joe "this is a f*cking big deal" Biden's)

8. Sarah Palin tweeted this in July, "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." She recalled the tweet when called on the invented word, "refudiate", and followed up with "'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!'", which got her flak from some for "mistaking her illiteracy for literary genius" (click on the picture for CBS commentary)
-- The joke's on the detractors... Not only did they mistake having a self-depreciating sense of humor with "mistaking her illiteracy for literary genius"; she's actually right, we make up words all the time. 'Refudiate' is now a word, and she wasn't even the first to use it. Get over it.

9. Sir Elton John has this to say on the subject of religion: "I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems." (click on the picture for the interview in Parade magazine)
-- On the other hand, Voltaire once said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." ... or re-invent Him, as Sir Elton has just done. 

10. Republican Scott Brown won the US Senate seat that Democrat Ted Kennedy held for over 46 years. Alluding to observations that he had won "Ted Kennedy's seat," Brown responded in his victory speech, "This Senate seat belongs to no one person, to no one political party ... This is the People's seat."

-- Amen to that. 
So that's my Top 10 list!  Yes, it's US-centric... that's where I live and those are the people I hear. Now that I've revealed mine, I think I'll track down the Yale list and see if we have any in common.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The WHAT boy's NBA?

I missed this story when it first came out, but today on FoxNews, Peter Thiel, the billionaire entrepreneur who founded PayPal and financed Facebook, has been appealing to entrepreneurial college students to put their college plans on hold to start businesses. He's offering $100K to 20 students with workable ideas to put those plans into practice, setting aside their college plans for two years.

This led me to a Slate article by Jacob Weisberg, which - in addition to misreporting Theil's intent - tosses in a bit of racism that has apparently gone overlooked in the media, who, as twisted as they are, don't even see their hypocrisy.

Thiel's program is premised on the idea that America suffers from a deficiency of entrepreneurship. In fact, we may be on the verge of the opposite, a world in which too many weak ideas find funding and every kid dreams of being the next Mark Zuckerberg. This threatens to turn the risk-taking startup model into a white boy's version of the NBA, diverting a generation of young people from the love of knowledge for its own sake and respect for middle-class values.
(emphasis added)

Say WHAT? First of all, there is no "non-white boy's" version of the NBA. It's integrated, which for Weisberg's benefit means "anybody with ability can play." Nor is there any racial or gender-based component whatsoever in Thiel's proposal. Weisberg begins with the completely racist bias that presumes that when we're talking about good ideas for the marketplace, these will come from white males. Weisberg's assumption is despicable, as is his attitude and his inaccurate article.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Weisberg plays the race card at every possible opportunity. He played it in the 2008 elections (and was proven wrong); he plays it against the Tea Party; he plays it even here where it's completely inappropriate. He uses race as a weapon of first resort and has the nerve to whine like a baby when someone notices. If nothing else, his writing teaches us that if he points his finger hard enough at others it's OK for him to be a bigot on his own time.

Discounting his cheap ad hominem attacks, Weisberg takes Thiel to task for nothing more than having consistent values and putting his efforts behind them, unlike the typical Conservative Republican ("hands out of my pocketbook, but I'll legislate your lifestyle") or Liberal Democrat ("give me your wallet, and I'll pay lip-service to staying out of your private life so long as you live it the way I think you should.").

From Thiel's own lips, the request is to defer university for two years, something ignored by Weisberg. The offer is extended to 20 students who are 20 years old or younger.  The reason for the offer is clear: Thiel does not confuse a degree with intelligence. If you have an idea and you have it now, this allows you to take that idea to market with a lowered barrier to entry. It doesn't matter who or where the idea is from.

Furthermore, Weisberg accuses Thiel of
"...the desire to clone oneself—perhaps literally in Thiel's case. Thus Thiel fellows will have the opportunity to emulate their sponsor by halting their intellectual development around the onset of adulthood, maintaining a narrow-minded focus on getting rich as young as possible, and thereby avoid the siren lure of helping others or contributing to the advances in basic science that have made the great tech fortunes possible."
Pot, meet Kettle. Weisberg believes that it's OK for liberal educators to clone themselves ... that's contributing to "intellectual development" when done in a university setting by academicians... but it's not OK for anyone else to do that, because any learning or development obtained from anyone except people just like you is "halting their intellectual development." Also he clearly indicates that taking an advance to market and actually earning a tech fortune does not make "the great tech fortunes possible." Note also his opinion that starting a company and providing jobs, products, and services isn't "helping others."

Wow... racism, sexism, hypocrisy, and ignorance, all in one Weisberg article!

Unfortunately, Weisberg doesn't stop there. You have here the added assumption that you actually need a university education to develop intellectually, with the implication that you cannot make anything of yourself without it. Not doing as he does is a diversion from "middle-class values".  This is the sort of sort of dumbshit Newspeak snow-job that has been perpetrated by the people whose job it is to sell these educations. Be clear: it is not the job of a university to educate... it is the job of a university to sell education. That is how they earn their salaries; it's how they buy groceries; it's how they pay the rent. It is in their vested interest to convince you that you should spend thirty thousand dollars for a French Literature degree so you can settle for a job at the video store (because God knows there's a burning need for French Lit majors) rather than continue your father's plumbing business and earn $60+ per hour. Meanwhile the French Lit major forks over half a day's wages when he needs his drain unclogged.

Entrepreneurial spirit and innovation isn't limited to Internet billionaires... they are firmly rooted "middle-class values" shared by the plumber, carpenter, electrician, hardware-store owner, grocer... etc. IOW, these values are shared by the actual middle-class, who own businesses and employ people and make it possible to live civilized lives; if not by Weisberg's imaginary middle-class populated entirely by academicians, journalists, and theoretical scientists. The point here is that these pseudo-intellectual Leftists have made a career of belittling people who have simply chosen to take their lives in a direction that the Leftists themselves would not have chosen. This is the basic lie behind the Leftist ideal of "personal freedom"... your freedom of choice is tolerated only so long as it is the "right" choice, as decided by your betters.

Here are a few news flashes, folks, in list form:
  1. You don't have to be a white male to have a good idea.
  2. You don't have to be a white male to start a company.
  3. A university education should undertaken if it gets you to your goal. It is not a necessary requirement for acceptance and self-worth. If obtaining the degree does nothing to further your goal, then you should waste neither the money nor the time. Instead, you should apply it toward starting your business or even paying your rent. You should not be made to feel guilty about that.
  4. Your "intellectual development" does not halt should you choose to do something other than buy a university education.
  5. Thiel's foundation is designed to shepherd 20 young entrepreneurs over a two year period. It is not an appeal for mass exodus from college campuses.
Thiel has spent his time creating wealth and creating jobs through the practical application in the marketplace of excellent ideas; he is a successful entrepreneur who has expressed an interest in bettering society by providing opportunities to people who would otherwise see those opportunities pass by. Some people will avail themselves of these opportunities. That is their choice. They don't need to be lectured by the likes of Weisberg... one more hypocritical Left-wing elitist, racist, sexist windbag.

(Lest you think I'm lobbing this in from the far Right... think again. There's plenty of hypocritical nonsense on that side as well. But today I'm talking about Weisberg. And if you want to be a French Lit major... more power to you. I used it only as an example of people who attended college for no purpose other than obtaining a credential.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Quack medical device ads make me sick

It must be the season for quack medicine ads.

Once again I've seen a never-ending parade of ads for i-Renew bracelets. I don't think I can add much to what Dan's Wild Wild Science Journal says about them, except to say this about the i-Renew "balance demonstrations": I got exactly the same results from people by having them hold an astounding new breakthrough "iridium amulet". In actuality the "amulet" was an arcade token in a velvet bag. People will fall for anything with the right pitch and a little applied leverage.

Remember Q-Ray bracelets? Same scam, different pitch. They're still around, sold for unbelievable prices, but they've toned down the marketing since they had to hand back $64.5 million in refunds and $22.5 million in net profits for false advertising. There's a superficially identical product out there called the Balance Bracelet.

The new kid on the block is the Power Balance bracelet. This one's not even trying to be credible. It's a little plastic bracelet with a cheap hologram embedded in it. The pitch?
Power Balance is Performance Technology designed to work with your body’s natural energy field. Founded by athletes, Power Balance is a favorite among elite athletes for whom balance, strength and flexibility are important.
Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.
Yes, they've managed to put "energy fields" and "technology" and Eastern philosophy in the same pitch, with holograms standing in as a cheap technological substitute for crystals. The bottom line on how it works is, ancient Chinese secret. Because, of course, we all know the legendary efficacy of ancient Chinese holograms. And it's important for us to know that it's founded by athletes because who else would know more about holograms and "energy fields" than jocks who want your money?

Does it work at all? Sure, placebos give some people the confidence they need to perform at the very same level they could have performed at with confidence alone and no bracelet. These work to exactly that degree. If they work to any further extent, then it is the responsibility of the peddlers to demonstrate, through scientific testing, that they do. Testimonials mean exactly nothing.

Keep in mind please, that the hologram diffracts visible light frequencies, and faces away from the body, blocked by the plastic bracelet in which it's embedded. Also keep in mind that I've personally demonstrated similar, if not identical, results using nothing more than a brass token in a bag and some not-very-fancy confidence patter. Be it with magnetism, "ionization", holography, or just plain magic, all of these products claim to do the same thing... they all "manipulate the body's natural energy field". Obviously this "energy field" is a highly malleable thing, to be affected by so many disparate influences. I think it's pretty clear that the only influence that matters is wishful thinking.

Oy veh. These are just the bracelets. I could rant all day on the bottles in the pharmacy, plainly labeled as follows:
"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease"
Even though they're marketed for precisely those purposes. In fact, I think I will rant all day. Another day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Left Flunks Econ 101

The Wall Street Journal has published an article by Daniel Klein, who is co-author of a survey of economics. The results of that survey are astoundingly clear, though not surprising at all to those of us who are conservative Libertarians.

First, the links:
The Wall Street Journal Article.
The author's abstract at Economics Journal Watch.
The PDF of the actual report, including links to the raw data and the survey form itself.
The conclusion is unequivocal: the Left doesn't understand economics. They just. don't. get. it. This isn't just suggested by the data, or implied... the gap in their understanding is deep and wide. Even though the respondents were given every possible break -- "not sure" answers were counted the same as correct ones -- Progressives and Liberals got more than 60% of the questions wrong, on the average.

The text of the PDF clearly discusses the results, as well as caveats in the methodology, but some of what interested me were the results listed in an off-hand way in tables at the end of the report. For instance, out of 8 questions, on the average,
  • Obama voters got 4.61 wrong. Only Nader and McKinney voters scored worse. It was no surprise to me that Obama was chosen by people who have a poor understanding of economics. I think he's seriously challenged in that respect himself. People in the know voted "No."
  • Democrats got 4.59 wrong. Only the Green party scored worse. Libertarians and Republicans scored best, with 1.29 and 1.61 questions wrong, respectively.
  • African Americans scored worse than any other ethnic group, with 4.26 questions wrong on the average. I didn't find this surprising, not because of their race, but because Blacks overwhelmingly tend to be Democrats. I believe the score was bolstered by those Blacks who aren't Democrats. By the way, Asians scored best.
  • Athiests and Protestants scored best of the various religions identified, with 1.91 and 2.4 questions wrong, respectively. "Other/No Affiliation" (i.e. people who are spiritual but non-denominational) scored the worst by far, with 4.09 questions wrong. I don't find this surprising at all... I think it's self-evident that the amorphous "touchy-feelies" aren't very well connected to reality to start with.
  • Of the Protestants, Born-again Christians tended to score better than those who were not born-again (2.03 to 2.72 questions wrong)
  • People who go to church scored better. This is a direct correlation... the more often you attend church, the more likely you are to be economically enlightened.
  • Married people score best of the various marital statuses (2.72 questions wrong). This applies only to traditional marriages: people in "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships" scored worst by a large margin (4.05 questions wrong)
  • People who identified themselves as residents of "America" scored best (2.25 questions wrong), while those who identified themselves as residents of "The Planet Earth" scored worst by a large margin (4.59 questions wrong).
  • Families with members of the Armed Forces score better (2.68 vs. 3.06 questions wrong).
  • NASCAR fans score better than those who aren't (2.43 vs 3.06 questions wrong) Perhaps this puts to lie the stereotype of the NASCAR fans as a bunch of drooling hicks... keep in mind that those stereotypes are propagated by people who don't know as much about economics themselves!
  • People who frequently shop at Wal-Mart scored much better than those who never do (2.24 to 4.24 questions wrong, respectively). This isn't much of a surprise to me... the snoots who won't shop there aren't likely to know a thing about saving a buck. It's pretty clear that the people who shop there aren't stupid about economics... but their detractors may be.
  • Households with union members score worse. Duh. We hate unions here in the South. Maybe that has to do with us being NASCAR-lovin' churchgoers who respect the military. Or maybe we just recognize it when a group is trying to subvert economic realities to their own benefit, and we don't like the injustice of it.
  • In direct proportion, the results are correlated to income. The less you make, the less you're likely to know about economics. Again, not surprising.
Keep in mind that all of these results are true for the people who are likely to respond to the survey. The authors surmise that this self-selection may skew respondents to the higher end of the IQ scale. One might conclude that these results come from the smartest of those people polled. That thought should scare you to death if you're a Democrat.

For what it's worth, I personally am a Libertarian Protestant who voted for McCain. I am traditionally married; an ex-USAF staff-sergeant who frequently shops at Wal-Mart, likes NASCAR, and makes a decent living. By all rights, I should have scored 100%... and I did.

Warnings on the Constitution? Give me a BREAK!

As reported by FoxNews, Wilder Publications believes it's necessary to put a disclaimer on the founding documents of this country, including the Constitution of the United States, the Federalist Papers, and the Articles of Confederation (precursor to the Constitution).

Wilder apparently believe that these documents are in danger of being pulled from library shelves because they may be offensive to some readers. So in order to forestall a perceived potential offense among a hypersensitive minority, they have decided to guarantee the offense of the mainstream public. Astounding.

The disclaimer reads as follows:
"This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work."
In an interview with FoxNews' Trace Gallagher, Wilder company spokesperson Warren Lapine indicated that the company had received repeated complaints about the values expressed in the documents and had written the disclaim simply so that they didn't have to keep explaining that values differed 200 years ago.

I'm not buyin' that sad, ignorant argument. These documents are the basis of every freedom we have. They are the only authority under which any of our elected or appointed officials are empowered to act. If we live in a better world than our ancestors did, it is purely because of the values that they codified in these specific documents. There is no reason whatsoever that parents should sit down with their children for a political correctness indoctrination session before allowing these documents to be read.

A disclaimer, BTW, is intended to defend against legal liability. These documents ARE the law. Not only are they the law, they are, by every definition, above any law created under their authority. The disclaimer is therefore absolutely worthless from a legal standpoint; its only arguable worth being its propaganda value. Perhaps Wilder simply thought the country was more politically numb than it is.

Sadly, from long experience I have come to recognize that these forms of "trial balloons" when sent up by the Far Left, are positive indicators of the tactics that they will bring to the mainstream 20 to 30 years from now. To that end they confuse - deliberately or not - the prevailing morals of the day with the ideals expressed in the Constitution by these same men in their attempt to build a future better than their present. Expect to see more of this argument, that the founding fathers' views were somehow offensive; and especially expect to see it couched in the assertions that "everybody knows" this to be true. This gradual re-definition of mainstream opinion through bold assertion and repetition has been their modus operandi for decades. Don't let them do it to the Constitution.

In the meantime, my own response is to boycott Wilder Publications. I've seen blogs argue that they shouldn't be punished for simply pointing out the misogyny and racism of our founding fathers. These people miss the point, which is that Wilder should face the economic consequences of suggesting to their readership that free and unfettered access to these documents should be restricted to only those who have somehow been properly prepared for them. THAT'S the offensive portion of this disclaimer. This is a government of the PEOPLE... no portion of the governmental process should be walled off from the citizens of this country, and don't you ever, ever forget it.

Let Wilder remain a small publisher or go out of business. Should you wish to add your voice to those reviewing Wilder's publication of these documents on, here's the link.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Vincent and the Doctor

I'd have reviewed this episode of Doctor Who, but Den of Geek has done it already and said everything I would have.

Here's the Review.

I will say this... BRAVO, Tony Curran. And BRAVO, Bill Nighy.

BTW, if you know nothing about The Doctor, you're culturally deprived. Here's a primer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

World Lupus Day (UPDATED)

Jules Sherred would like you to know that she has lupus. But more than that, she'd like you to be aware of what Lupus is and what it does to the people who have it. So much so that she's started a virtual gallery to bring awareness to lupus.

Those of you who know me know that I don't jump headfirst into every cause... I pick my battles with care. And I'm picking this one. Not only is Jules a good friend, but my sister also has lupus. And it's a nasty, painful, persistent thing. So I'm going to ask you to follow the links above, educate yourself a little about lupus, and maybe get involved in some of the very neat projects that Jules and friends have planned for the event.

Even if you don't take part in the event, you'll have learned something new, and that's always a very cool thing. Do it, please.

Y'know, I've decided that just spreading awareness isn't good enough. I want to do something tangible. So here's my project for World Lupus Day. I mentioned above that my sister has lupus. So she's getting some "get out of chores free" cards that she can use on a day when she's just really not feeling up to it. Here's a copy of the card, in case you want to use it to help out your own friends with lupus. Click on the card to make it bigger and print a copy (I made it fit on a 3x5 card at 300dpi, but you may need to scale it
Click on the card to make it bigger and print a copy (I made it fit on a 3x5 card at 300 dpi, but you may need to scale it to your printer. The ones I printed have my name and phone number on them, but I've replaced that with lines here so you can write in your own. If you want to edit the card, then here's a link to the original graphics. You'll need the GIMP to edit it. (don't worry, it's free).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sex Offenders Aren't Allowed To Read This Blog

I suspect I'm about to offend a lot of people. A lot of well-meaning, law-abiding, God-fearing, and hopelessly intolerant and illogical people. And it won't take me long to do it.

The topic is sex offenders (and, more broadly, crime in general). Today I received a Facebook request to join a group called "Keep Registered Sex Offenders from Joining Facebook".

I ignored the group. Why? Because I'm very big on justice and the very premise of this group is unjust.

Let's start with some facts.
  1. I'm not condoning, supporting, or defending sex offenses in any way whatsoever. If you respond with such an accusation, then I will not even give your argument a cursory hearing, because you're not listening, and I won't bother to listen to you if you can't be bothered to listen to me.
  2. Registered sex offenders are "registered" because they have been convicted. They have been told to do so by a judge, and that's part of their punishment. In every case they have served whatever portion of their sentence they were directed to before being released back into society and having their name placed on such a list.
  3. Punishments for crimes are determined by law. Such punishments are imposed to exact justice. That's justice, not revenge, not everlasting punishment.
There are many, many laws constricting where and how a "sex offender" can live or work. In some areas these restrictions are greater than others, and sometimes it doesn't matter what the nature of the offense is. In California, for instance, "annoying children" can be a sex offense (a rule which, if applied consistently, would see almost all teachers behind bars eventually).

Nevertheless, you will never, ever, ever find a shortage of civic-minded individuals who do not trust in the rule of law and who do not agree with the sentencing imposed by judges under legislated guidelines.

People, the way the law should work is this... if you commit a crime, and you are convicted, you pay a debt to society. This may be a fine, it may be restitution, or incarceration; but in every case, when the debt is paid IT IS PAID. Now, if you don't agree with that statement, read it again very carefully. And if you still don't agree with it, it's because your brain isn't working properly and you are very, very wrong.

There are certain long-lasting or permanent repercussions to committing some crimes. Felons may not be allowed to own a gun, or vote, or run for public office. Sex offenders are registered and typically aren't allowed to work in jobs that require them to come in significant contact with children, and may not be allowed to live within a certain distance of schools. In every case, with every crime, these persistent restrictions are for the protection of the public. They are never there to satisfy your outrage.

There are misguided individuals who insist on piling punishment upon punishment, ad infinitum, until prison looks pretty good by comparison. These individuals apparently believe that they are "doing something" to make their world a little safer, and don't seem to realize that they are very often working at cross-purposes to that goal. Do you want to know how to turn an offender into a repeat offender? It's really easy: you simply take away all hope, all friendships, all socializing, all chance of a normal life, all chance of being able to move on. You establish gulags and ghettos for these sex offenders because nobody anywhere wants them to live in their neighborhoods. You establish petitions to keep them off the Internet because God forbid they might actually type into the same forum you do. If you detect that they might actually have a friend or two that they would like to keep in touch with... well, you nip that in the bud and keep them isolated and friendless and dissatisfied and yearning for anybody's company... anybody's at all.

In other words, you do exactly what the misguided individuals I mentioned advocate.

The usual reasons given for the neverending cycle of punishment are the severity of the crime and that sex offenses are an addiction that cannot be overcome. For the first, I call B.S.... for example, in the U.S. we do not have a "registered murderers" database. We're clearly not talking about the severity of the crime; rather it's the emotional baggage attached to it. I also call B.S. on the second reason. There are many addictions, and we do not hang a permanent stigma over any other type of addiction. Even heroin use can be overcome. There are former substance abusers all over the globe who want their recreational drug, yet choose not to have them. Beyond the matter of denying an individual's constitutional rights, we're faced with the rather dangerous situation where people desire to treat the addiction itself as a crime rather than acting on the addiction. By comparison, being addicted to heroin is not a criminal offense in any jurisdiction; using heroin is. Certainly it's possible that some sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, but it has never been shown that this applies to all, and to paint all people with the same brush is simply unjust, illogical, and even unconstitutional.

Now, there ARE incorrigible criminals, and the law recognizes and allows for that with life imprisonment and even the death penalty. If you really and truly believe that these sex offenders are completely incorrigible, and that they cannot under any circumstances be rehabilitated or control their urges, then stop being a wimp. Hypocrites piss me off. Stand up and advocate that they be locked away for life. But don't add to the problem by showering them with pissy little micro-annoyances that in the long run do nothing but add to society's problems.

Monday, April 05, 2010

NatGeo: When The Earth Stops Spinning

I apologize in advance for the harsh language in this review, but I cannot help myself.

As I write this, National Geographic is airing a program called Aftermath:When The Earth Stops Spinning. It postulates what would happen if the Earth, over a FIVE YEAR PERIOD, stopped spinning.

This is the most retarded sack of bovine excrement I've ever seen aired on this supposedly "science" channel. The primary supposition hangs over all of the speculation like the sword of Damocles... namely, WHY? What could possibly cause the Earth to slow that rapidly? The show does note that the Earth is gradually slowing down, about two seconds every 100,000 years. It does not mention why. For the curious, the reason is gravitational tidal forces. Our moon slows our rotation, as does, to a lesser extent, gravitational "friction" from the Sun. But this slowing is extremely slight because in the absence of an external force, Newton's laws prevail. An object in motion remains in motion. For the Earth to slow as rapidly as this turd of a program suggests, a positively MASSIVE amount of external force must be applied, and that force must be something other than the pre-existing gravitational fields of the Moon and the Sun. There is exactly NO other explanation whatsoever. So what is that postulated force?

Apparently, magic. That's right: MAGIC.
National Geographic provides NO other explanation.

The ignorant fucktards who wrote this piece of crap literally forgot Newton. They forgot physics. The forgot physiology (real physiology like the actual fact that people above the Arctic Circle routinely survive 6-month-long days, not the made-up crap they're using to suggest that this isn't possible). They forgot that the application of the external force applied to slow the Earth (and I'm talking about a real, scientifically explainable physical force) would be instantly recognizable, and would cause more commotion than combined effects of the rest of their speculation. They forgot everything actually scientific that they ever might have been taught, leaving them with this.... nothing.

The writers are so astoundingly stupid that they cannot even figure out how to desalinate ocean water even when provided with 6 months of uninterrupted sunlight. The failure of the electrical grid has them stumped.

This is not a science program. It is fear-mongering, ignorant, unscientific shit, and it should never have been allowed to air on this channel. I am so incredibly pissed-off at the producers, the network, and even the dumbass announcer who agreed to lend his annoying voice to this crap. There is ONE statement at the end of the program that reveals the program is an exercise in utterly pointless programming:
"It will never happen like this."
No shit. This is followed with:
"But still it reveals the delicate balance that keeps this planet alive."
No. It reveals nothing of the sort. There's nothing "delicate" about magically stopping the rotation of the entire fucking PLANET. It reveals one thing and one thing only: This was written, produced, and aired by a bunch of unmitigated morons of the worst character.

I don't think I'll be watching anything on NatGeo for a long time. They've squandered their yearly supply of credibility.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at __FTP_MIGRATION_NEW_URL__.
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Monday, February 22, 2010

Geeky Pleasures.

OK, I'm a geek, aaaaaand a Trekkie. So much so that I sat down last June and GIMPed myself a picture of -- well -- me, in Starfleet gear (TOS, natch!). This was deliberately done in Filmation style.

(For those that are wondering, Filmation produced the animated Star Trek series in the 1970s.)

This being my pic, done by me, I took the liberty of un-greying my beard. And yes, it's science officer garb.

I can hardly wait for the new Star Trek Phase II episode, "Enemy Starfleet". Here's a sneak peek:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

REVIEW: Deception Point

Although it's yet another "intellectual thriller" -- this time involving NASA and US Presidential politics -- it's not stamped out of the same mold as every other Dan Brown book to date. That is perhaps the second-most incredible thing about it. The most incredible thing about this book is that I actually enjoyed it, against my better judgement.

But let's get the unpleasantries out of the way first. The book is about a startling NASA discovery in the arctic... one which can change the course of American politics. And of course there is a conspiracy to mis-direct the public regarding this discovery. With a name like "Deception Point" you can hardly expect anything else.

For a book that leans heavily on science, and which features A-list scientists in its cast, the science here is atrocious, beginning with the fact that Brown evidently can't do math. For the record, if you have a sphere of 10 feet in diameter, and its density is greater than that of water, then it is likely to weigh in excess of 15 tons, not 8. Brown also has great difficulty with geology, biology, astronomy, etc. Every bit of the "science" in this book is fraught with inaccuracies.

But you know what? It doesn't really matter that much. The inaccuracies that Brown introduces are cumulatively less aggregious than those in your average episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and they had a "science advisor"(!)). At least Brown didn't introduce magic gravity plating, FTL engines, and Transporters. So we can get past the bad science.

Unfortunately, the characterizations aren't much better. "NASA scientists" are biased and bad; "Civilian scientists" are good and honest and true. Politicians are either pure as the driven snow or are evil and corrupt. And Delta Force makes an appearance in this book, but apparently they were replaced at the last moment by the Keystone Kops in disguise, led by Inspector Clouseau. Much of the novel's momentum is driven by the repeated unlikely blunders of this "elite" fighting force.

But you know what? That doesn't matter so much, either. I enjoyed Westerns in my youth even though the same simplistic white hat/black hat dichotomies were present. I'm a little more miffed about the "NASA scientists" vs "civilian scientists" thing, but it actually made sense in the context of the story... the civilian scientists were there because they DIDN'T make the discovery. They were there to confirm, thus they were characterized as being unbiased.

The action in the book (and there's a lot of that) stretched the bounds of credibility beyond the breaking point. When dropped into arctic waters without a boat or survival gear, what are your chances of survival? When trapped in a disabled and sealed submarine in shark-infested waters sinking rapidly into a oceanic volcano, what are your chances of survival? When fired upon by a military helicopter with heat-seeking weapons, what are your chances of survival? Answer: pretty close to 100% if you're the protagonist in a Dan Brown novel.

But you know what? That doesn't matter so much, either! After all, the Anthropic Principle indicates that it's irrelevant how improbable any event is... if we're alive to wonder about it, it happened, the odds be damned. So we can put that behind us as well.

Also put behind us the improbability of Brown's portrayal of Presidential politics. Just last night we heard a State-of-the-Union address in which our president expended untold minutes extolling his plan for creating jobs through a "green energy" strategy which, if effective at all, will amount to a raindrop in the economic ocean. Politicians stress ridiculous things, so that can be put behind us as well.

Given that the plot, the sub-plot, the action, the characterizations, and the science all sucked, why did I enjoy the book? Probably because this is the fourth Dan Brown book I've read and it's the first that's different from the others in any significant way. At least it's not The Da Vinci Code. And once you've suspended disbelief and just decided to go along for the ride, it's actually fun, partially because you're intrigued to learn how Brown intends to resolve the next ludicrous cliff-hanger.

So I'm giving this a solid 3.5 stars simply because Dan Brown inadvertently wrote something that would make a great episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


"...tired of hearing about Haiti. Why can't [we] hear about someplace cooler like Kenya?"

This was posted to Facebook by one of my children. I responded, "Because, my cold and calculating son, natural disasters are not slaves of fashion. We will discuss."

What follows is the gist of that discussion. PLEASE read this through to the end, as I think it's well worth it.
Once there was a small boy who never said a word. From birth he never uttered a single sound... not to cry, not to complain. Nothing at all. One day at the dinner table, as he and his family were eating, he quietly said, "The soup's cold."

His parents were astounded! His mother, shedding tears of joy, shouted, "My son! My son! All your life you've been completely silent! Never a word! And now, suddenly, miraculously, you speak! Tell me, why have you never spoken before?"

The boy meekly replied, "Everything's been OK up until now."
When someone is doing OK, you don't necessarily hear from them. The old adage, "No news is good news" is generally true. But when someone is in trouble you hear from them and about them A LOT. This is true whether it's another country, like Haiti, or the family in the house around the corner. You may never have met that family. You may not even know their name. But if their roof were to collapse you would help, right? Of course!

We have an unusual sort of "charity" in my house. On occasion (about five times now) we invite someone in distress to live with us. It didn't start out as a conscious decision to be charitable. Rather, we knew someone who needed a "leg up" and we had some spare room. Then it happened again... and again. Once it was a young woman who was living in Florida. She was in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by drugs and "gangstas" and bad influences, with no apparent way out. She and her two sons were living in one room of a trailer. We invited her and her boys to stay with us. The deal was the same as we have always offered. Stay with us. Pay no rent. Buy no food. Don't worry about expenses. Just be part of the family, look for a job and save your money for six months before you even think about moving out. If you do exactly that then you'll have six months of wages for a security deposit, first and last month's rent, and any deposits necessary for utilities and you'll still have a little in the bank so you're not living hand-to-mouth.

As I said, we've done this a number of times, and it's not really a difficult thing to do... most Americans waste enough food to feed yet another family, and we're no exception. And everybody has room, whether they think they do or not. A fold-out couch or a couple of cots... c'mon.

Well, Peggy took us up on the offer and as usually happens she asked how she could repay us. The answer, as always, was, "You can't. We won't let you. But someday you'll be in a position to help somebody and you will do it. Not because I'm telling you to, but because you know it's the right thing to do." It has never once been our intention to receive some reward or "payback" for helping somebody out.

A few years later my own mother took ill. She had struggled with various forms of cancer for decades, but this time it was lymphoma, and incurable. She was in a nursing home for a short time, but that really wasn't the sort of place you'd want to spend your last moments, so we brought her home to stay at my brother's house. Although hospice workers could visit occasionally, it got to the point where Mom needed 'round-the-clock care, which was completely unaffordable.

By this time Peggy's kids were out of school and working, so they took over the rent on her place as she quit her job as a cashier and moved back in and took care of my mother until Mom died. We couldn't afford to pay her a salary, but again she had no rent, and no expenses, as well as the exclusive use of Mom's car (which Mom gave to her before she died. As a totally inadequate thank-you we had it completely serviced and painted). I've incidentally mentioned Peggy before.

When we helped Peggy and told her to pass on the favor, we had no idea that we would be the people to benefit down the line. And when Peggy quit her job to help us, she had no idea that she herself might benefit from her own boundless generosity.

Nevertheless, she did. The hospice workers noticed what she was doing, and that she was very good at it. They suggested to her that she could do this as a living. They set her up with financial aid, a part-time job at the hospital, and credited her time caring for my mother as an internship. She wound up with the best job she had ever held in her life. Her act of selfless charity turned her life around. Instead of being a low-paid cashier in a convenience store she is now a respected and well-paid healthcare worker.

Clearly, people do notice when you do "the right thing." But I'm not telling this story to suggest that if you are charitable you're going to get something back from it. This isn't about karma or payback or quid-pro-quo*. Oprah's wrong... there is no 'The Secret'. I'm telling you this for this reason... I want you to ask yourself a question:
Isn't it a comfort to know that if someone truly needs help there's someone else in the world who is willing to give that help? Isn't that nice?
But you can't know that. You can't know what's in anybody else's mind and heart. The only person you can speak for is yourself. If you want to know... for a fact... that someone in this world is willing to help a total stranger, the one and only possible way to know that is to be that person.

That's the point that you can realize that no person is truly unique. We all share our humanity. There are many people like you. And if you're willing to help, they are too. Get it? If there's one person who's willing to help, there are millions. But the only way to ensure that there is one is by being that 'one'.

This is why we as individuals must be charitable. If we're not, then there's no guarantee that anyone will be. And it's not enough to just let the government do it. That is a solution reserved for the lazy, the cowardly, and the apathetic. It's a way for them to not be charitable and say they are. It's a little lie they tell themselves because they don't understand what and why they should do for others.

And it's wasteful. We as individuals could help someone like Peggy out without any material injury to ourselves, absolutely no expense to others, and with negative waste. By contrast, how much would it have cost to put her up in government housing with subsidized furniture rentals, provide her with food stamps, etc.? If she -- or any of the others -- had gone that route they would probably still be there. How many American homes have a "spare room" of some sort? How many people just absolutely could not put up someone temporarily? Now ask yourself, "why is anyone homeless?"

Furthermore, government agencies can only do what they're set up to do. But there is no limit to the number of ways that people need help. And it's not hard. If someone is hungry, invite him to dinner. If someone needs shoes, buy some. Donate your old clothes to the Salvation Army, and drop some change in the bucket next Christmas. Smile when you do it. Donate to Toys for Tots. Watch the neighbor's kids.

In terms of disasters like Haiti we can't all pick up and rush down there to dig in the rubble and rebuild. It would be chaos if we did. But the least we can do is send representatives, and the money, and the food, and the comfort that these people need. They don't live next door, but they are our neighbors and our brothers and deserve every bit of compassion we can share.

Charity begins in the home, but it need not end there.

link to Some Political Opinions

* I purposely left out any mention of God and religion from this discussion. The reason is very simple. There's not one thing that I'm saying here that isn't as valid for the most staunch atheist as it is for the Pope himself. And though God may choose to reward good behavior, He doesn't owe you Jack. Nor does he make any promise as to exact nature or time of your reward. Do nothing good in this life on the premise that you will be rewarded for it. Do it because its right, or don't bother. If you don't understand this paragraph you are currently in the "don't bother" category.

My Home

I "adopted" Union after having left the USAF. Here are some reasons:

Now, obviously, this film is a piece of propaganda. I mean that in a good sense... "propaganda" is a word that literally means "promotion" (not "lies" as is sometimes thought). Now, watch the film and notice the number of times the word "go" is used. You go to Spartanburg, go to Greenville, go to Columbia, go to the mountains, go the beach, go, go, go. As Union is in the middle of so much Upstate SC goodness, it's natural to promote Union's proximity to all of that. But I think in doing so the film misses out on quite a bit to recommend Union itself.

For instance, if you can GO to Spartanburg, why not LIVE there? There are a number of answers to that, one being that the cost of living in Union is incredibly low. I'm going to illustrate by sharing something that you have no business knowing. I live in a rather nice brick house, with a huge basement/garage (the size of the house itself) and an attached office. This house sits on a hill surrounded by mature oak, pecan, and pine trees on a three-acre plot of land about 2 miles outside the city limits. I bought it for $102K. My property taxes amount to something like $750/year.

For another, the amenities are in fact quite good, in part due to the low population. For instance, Charter Cable provides internet service with actual serviceable bitrates that are quite close to the 10 meg advertised limit. That's like having a 10Base-T connection to the internet! I get a better connection here that most of my acquaintances in more "developed" areas. As a result, I'm able to work productively from a home office that I jokingly refer to as being "equally inconvenient to everywhere". The water is extremely good, and the power company (owned by the city) does a very nice job of keeping things running. The city's ownership of the power company is a major plus, in that by having such a profit center the city can keep property taxes low. The film does mention the schools, which are in fact very, very good. In addition to having up-to-date facilities, our schools are NOT plagued by "zero-tolerance" rules that haunt other districts. We pay teachers and administrators to think, and they are quite happy to do that.

But here's the thing... while the film shows a lot of pretty places (not all of which are actually in Union county), and impressive things, and beats the drum of progress, progress, progress; it's the things that don't change about this place that really recommend it.

When I first came to this town in 1989, Main Street closed every Wednesday afternoon. Follow that? Main Street... the whole street.... every business... closed. Why? Because everybody went to church Wednesday evening, and took time off to prepare. Main Street doesn't close any more, and it's prettier than it was, but it's still populated by good, decent people.

We've had some scandals, yes. Susan Smith famously drowned her children in 1995. But such occurences are few and far between. In general, the people of Union are generous to a fault, honest, personable, friendly and hospitable. They're also creative... each year Union's Boogaloo Folk Life Productions produce and perform two completely original musical plays. (I'm happy to participate in these, as I describe here). These are based on true stories submitted by the residents of Union.

I've previously described my biggest reason for adopting this town, and rather than repeating it here I'm going to link you to that account. But let me leave you with this: Union has a great location, amenities, scenery, yada, yada, yada... but it is the people of Union that make this the best place I have ever lived.