Archive for the ‘Poisoning Science’ Category

Science: The Belief in the Ignorance of Experts

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Frank J. Tipler writes at Men’s News Daily:

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” is how the great Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman defined science in his article “What is Science?” Feynman emphasized this definition by repeating it in a stand-alone sentence in extra large typeface in his article.

Immediately after his definition of science, Feynman wrote: “When someone says, ‘Science teaches such and such,’ he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, ‘Science has shown such and such,’ you should ask, ‘How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?’ It should not be ‘science has shown.’ And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments (but be patient and listen to all the evidence) to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.”

And I say, Amen. Notice that “you” is the average person. You have the right to hear the evidence, and you have the right to judge whether the evidence supports the conclusion. We now use the phrase “scientific consensus,” or “peer review,” rather than “science has shown.” By whatever name, the idea is balderdash. Feynman was absolutely correct.

When the attorney general of Virginia sued to force Michael Mann of “hockey stick” fame to provide the raw data he used, and the complete computer program used to analyze the data, so that “you” could decide, the Faculty Senate of the University of Virginia declared this request — Feynman’s request — to be an outrage. You peons, the Faculty Senate decreed, must simply accept the conclusions of any “scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer review standards.” Feynman’s — and the attorney general’s and my own and other scientists’ — request for the raw data, so we can “judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at,” would, according to the Faculty Senate, “send a chilling message to scientists…and indeed scholars in any discipline.”

According the Faculty Senate of the University of Virginia, “science,” and indeed “scholarship” in general, is no longer an attempt to establish truth by replicable experiment, or by looking at evidence that can be checked by anyone. “Truth” is now to be established by the decree of powerful authority, by “peer review.” Wasn’t the whole point of the Enlightenment to avoid exactly this?

We’ve sometimes referred, here, to a logical fallacy we have given the name of “Malcolm Forbes’ Demise.” Back when the balloon-riding mogul assumed room temperature, we happened to have read about it first in some trashy tabloid (reading the cover while waiting to pay for our groceries, of course). Now, 1990 being well before the maturity of the Internet as we know it today, and at the time not really caring about it too much, it was some time before we learned of this from any other source. So pretending for the moment we were forced to rely on a tabloid magazine — if we were to try to arrive at a “scientific” hypothesis about Mr. Forbes’ health, and engage in this “peer review” process done by “science,” the first step would of course be to establish the level of credibility of these trash-tabs. It’s very low, of course. And from that we would then have to conclude, tentatively, that Forbes is alive and well until we hear differently from a more reliable source.

BalloonAccording to the methods we are told are sound, that’s only reasonable!

A man of genuine logic and reason, on the other hand, would ask himself how likely it is that the evidence in hand would arrive, were there no truth behind the statement. Well, a better source would be desirable, for sure. But our exercise, being one of deriving conclusions from facts, rather than of gathering the facts, says we are deprived of that…so in the absence of that, would the rag print up the headline if Malcolm Forbes was not dead? The potential for this is peripheral at best. Would you bet money that Forbes is alive? Or that he’s dead? Use your common sense. He’s probably dead.

It seems a piddling distinction to make. And when you have the luxury of demanding information out of Google on a whim, it does become mostly meaningless. But all human affairs are not scrutinized by the robots of Google. So “consider the source” remains good advice, but that’s all it is. It doesn’t decide the entire question. This is a mistake commonly made by esteemed experts in the scientific community, as well as by us “peons.”

Another way we’ve been putting it: If someone known to you to possess appealing attributes says something that is known to be false, how do you react? How about if someone known to you to possess harmful attributes, says something known to be true? Does it then become untrue? What if the “knowns” are not entirely known, but mostly-known?

I lately made the acquaintance of another blogger. “Made the acquaintance of” means “got into a big ol’ cyber-dustup S.I.W.O.T.I. (Someone Is Wrong On The Innernets) argument with.” Late in the exchange I had noticed our real disagreement wasn’t with regard to the facts, or the conclusions to be reached from them, but rather with the method used for deriving conclusions from facts. You see, he had come off a very intoxicating high, having successfully bullied all sorts of folks to stop looking at something, and I kept looking at it. So he started telling half-truths about the study being recanted, which turned out not to be true; then, all other approaches having been exhausted, he started having an electronic hissy-fit trying to get me to ignore what he wanted me to ignore.

Noting that what the study purported to prove wasn’t even anything outside the realm of agreement between the two sides, I made this observation:

Your blog is fascinated with, and named after, a canard that was started (unintentionally) by H.L. Mencken; mine is fascinated with, and named after, an ancient library administrator who figured out the size of the Earth. So you’re sort of a “Bizarro Eratosthenes” from an anti-matter universe: Instead of encouraging people to look at things, you’re encouraging them to look away. I’m a software engineer, and from your comments it appears you are a (failed?) lawyer.

It’s the “fruit of the poisoned tree” doctrine. Cop illegally enters my apartment and catches me building a bomb, or torturing my kidnapped toddler, or writing a confession in my diary about having murdered somebody — and the law has to pretend it never happened. Yes, I know the doctrine is refined across time and it’s a good deal more complex than this, but the fundamental principle remains: We are to allow our lawyers to decide for us what “truth” is, and they are to instruct us to disregard big chunks of real truth.

There is a skill involved in this, and it is a learned skill passed down through the generations from parent to child. Today it is all but extinct: Isolating a claim from those who make it and argue about it, focusing only on the claim, exerting one’s mental energies toward figuring out if there’s truth to it or not.

Our overly-mature society has lost this. We look to the “experts” to figure it out for us, and trust them implicitly even in situations where we have no idea who they are, let alone what their agenda might be. Much of the erosion has been relatively recent. I trace it to the early 1960′s, to mid 1950′s; the Warren Court had transformed the “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree” doctrine into an iron fisted jurisprudence requiring judicial and enforcement officials of the law to pretend false things were true and true things were false.

The good news is that we always have the potential within us for a revival. It is interwoven into our DNA. If you’re about to crawl under a car, you will automatically become a highly skilled philosopher, dedicated to love of wisdom and love of truth, as you set about the task of figuring out if the jack stand is worthy of your trust. We rekindle this spirit by doing work, and we rekindle it quickly, forcefully, keenly, by doing dangerous work.

We allow it to atrophy when we shirk our responsibilities, when we become comfy, when we allow our existences to whither and shrivel into these little menageries of iPods, iced coffee drinks and video games. That is when we curl up into a fetal position and look for someone else to tell us what truth is. That is when we stop peeking into water wells, imploring our aristocrats, our superiors, our overseers, to form their communities and publish their papers and define their collectives.

You see, “peer review” is actually a misnomer. A peer is a relative term, applied to someone who possesses equal stature. This is a process for declaring communities of demigods, to stand over us and give us orders about what to think, to strip us of our God-given autonomy, independence, masculinity and resolve.

Thing I Know #129. Leaders; votes; clergy; academics; pundits; prevailing sentiment; political expediency. Wherever these decide what is & isn’t true, an empire will surely fall.

“The Wussification of the Workplace”

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Anchoress, hat tip to Gerard:

A man I know began working 20 years ago at a large corporation that he deemed it a pleasure to work for. The CEO and founder was (gasp!) a commoner, an ordinary engineer who had an idea and ran with it. Perhaps because he had worked for a living, and had not simply stepped out of a “good” school with an MBA, he knew how to treat the people who worked for him; compensation was generous; enthusiasm and imagination brought perks, and morale was high. People worked late because they were excited; they wanted to keep working.

Then the CEO sold his enormously successful company to a corporate giant. Out went the upper management that had been honed “from the ranks,” as it were. In came the suits; the “sophisticated” men and women, “from the right schools,” who could talk about what wine went with what entree, or their walking holiday in Burma, but had no understanding of the dreamers (and engineers are dreamers, before they are anything) whose knowledge and imaginations they needed to ensnare and encourage, and whose intelligence and dignity deserved respect.

Not just respect, but inclusion.

Morale quickly went down. Working for suits who knew all the “theory” of business, and how to read numbers, but had not the least understanding of what made a “human resource” so resourceful, the engineers and developers and testers and marketers and admins began to rush out the door as soon as the clock struck five. The fun was gone, the energy sapped; enthusiasm was no longer on the radar.
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These suited MBA’s can’t seem to get it. Huddled in their enclaves, they have difficulty understanding that a hard-working engineer with excellent problem-solving skills, a positive outlook and a knack for team-building needs more than an official performance review that ends with a condescendingly vague note about his being “a valuable member” of the collective whole.
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The men who built the Empire State Building stood on bare planks to work in the sky; paradoxically, they were grounded in reality, not theory. They did not have to concern themselves with tones and timbres; nor did the educated architects who dreamed up skyscrapers. One suspects that if either the man on the beam or the one with the blueprints had been approached by a tanning-booth-bronzed-and-manicured corporate bureaucrat, and asked to enumerate their “goals” as part of their “performance review” they both would have hooted at him in derision. “My goal,” the first would say, “is to not fall. It’s to stay alive so I can pick up my pay, have a beer with the wife, raise the kids and get into heaven a half-hour before the devil knows I’m dead.”

Anchoress the latest to discover the Architect-and-Medicator paradigm. I must say, every year that I see roll on by, instills in me a tiny bit more reluctance to refer to this divide in male-female terms. I keep running into these tough-as-steel Dagny Taggarts, along with their opposite pussy beta males, who upset the trend. It isn’t boy-girl. It is a way of doing one’s daily problem-solving.

Architects think.

Medicators feel.

The Architect yearns to make a difference as an individual.

Medicators long to join a collective.

Architects draw a perimeter around what they do, and enforce the perimeter, as well as the rules inside it.

Medicators seek and destroy. They become aware of something within earshot or line-of-sight that isn’t adhering to protocol, and go all control-freakish all over it.

Architects see the world as a confluence of autonomously-working objects, which come into contact with each other, and in so doing create cause-and-effect relationships with each other. This is how the Architect learns how to do things. He doesn’t see it as “grab your pencil this way, and draw the line.” He sees it as “When you drag the pencil across the paper, it makes a line.” There’s a big difference between those two statements.

The Medicator is unlikely to come up with new ways of doing things, because he learns step-by-step. What he knows how to do is all scripted, and he is therefore doomed to always learn, at most, just a piece of how to do it. Which suits him just fine. Push this button. The light will come on. But what if the light doesn’t come on?

The Architect labors toward a state of things which has not been seen before. If it has been seen before, he can’t wait to get off this project and onto a “real” one.

The Medicator labors toward a state of things that was seen exactly this time last year. He prepares reports. They are not excellent reports; the best they can be is identical to last year’s. The fabric of his very innermost mind is clerical.

The very best outcome the Architect can envision for his work, is something that ends with “er.” Taller. Bigger. Faster. More powerful. Stronger. Farther.

The very best outcome the Medicator can envision for his work, is the word “compliant.”

The world needs both to spin properly. But if both work together and conflict is entirely avoided, the Medicators will get rid of all the Architects because they care more about what everybody else is doing, and it’s in their nature to get rid of whatever doesn’t conform.

And so a civilized society will hang onto its own cajones only when its Architects become Architects with teeth. When the Architects become fearsome-when-cornered. When they are ready, willing, able — and permitted — to utter those all important words, “Begone From Here, You Medicator, And Go Do Your Medicating Someplace Else!” When the project perimeter can be enforced again.

Because every wonder-machine-of-tomorrow, needs a garage in which to get built. With big ol’ heavy wooden doors that can be locked shut.

Memo For File CVII

Monday, February 15th, 2010

I’ve decided the time has come to honor the advice of The Bastidge, and follow it. There is certainly a valid point to be made that the world, and therefore the populace that inhabits it, straddles a chasmatic divide separating two unacknowledged communities, and that each of these communities in perfect isolation would enjoy a harmony that must elude us as we co-exist with each other as a monolith. The divide has something to do with order versus chaos, clarity versus obfuscation, substance versus packaging, individual rights versus community obligations, opportunity versus security, pulling your weight versus fitting-in, logic versus emotion.

We’re seeing it right now with the health care debate. And it substantiates the point all the more when we observe that much of the controversy and dissention swirls around this ramshackle, oxymoronic thing called a “public option.”

I called this “Yin and Yang” out of a desire to get to the bottom of what causes people to pursue, throughout their entire lives, one way of thinking over another. The Yin work within boundaries; the Yang do not. The concept is centuries old, and dates back to periods in different world cultures in which femininity itself was a concept synonymous with the stewardship of quiet, contemplative female chores. In societies like this, it naturally follows that men think of things the way women do in ours, and women must think of things the way men do in ours. Here’s a litmus test: Friend of a friend buys a new car. Or, gets carjacked. It’s a great story to tell for sure, but who is to spend time talking about it?

In an agricultural setting, what happens to one has at least the likelihood of impacting everybody else. And so it makes good sense for people to get together somewhere and swap stories. But these are “Shut Your Girl Mouth Men Are Talking” societies. To whatever extent checking-this-out evolves to become a necessary household chore, it is a manly chore. A railroad’s coming to town, maybe (how does this change things?). Farmer Brown’s crops got wiped out by the cold weather (are ours next?). Who goes down to the saloon to find out about this stuff. It’s not the Mama; there are meals to be cooked, a floor to be swept.

Now, we have the automobile. The printing press. The Internet. Womens’ Lib. And when the time comes to swap tidbits of useful news, who does that? Here is what a lot of people are missing: This is a perfect reversal. We do not have mead halls where the men go to drink beer out of steins and compare prices of bushels of corn. It would be awesome if we did, for sure. But it’s not happening, because the gender roles in our society have flipped around in a perfect one-eighty. Men retreat into their own little worlds, not unlike the kitchens that enveloped their great-grandmothers. Their “kitchens” may be just about anything: A computer with a stubborn virus on it; a classic car that’s being rebuilt; a ham radio or a model train set down in the basement; but there is always a project, it always has a border around it, and that’s what men do.

This awesome Art of Manliness article offers a chronicling of what happened to our mead halls. It began, irony of ironies, with us guys being decent and kind enough to give the ladies the right to vote. Prohibition followed that, and…

For centuries, a man could visit a bar and be in the exclusive presence of other men. Because drinking was seen as a corrupting influence on the “purity and innocence” of women, bars were completely off limits to ladies (exceptions were made for prostitutes, of course). Out of the presence of women and children, men could open up more and revel in their masculinity over a mug of cold ale. However, the bar as a men’s only hangout would quickly see its demise during the dry years of Prohibition.

By banning alcohol, Prohibition forced drinking underground. Speakeasy owners, desperate to make a buck, accepted all drinkers into their establishments, regardless of gender. Moreover, the economic and political empowerment women experienced during the 1920s and 30s made drinking by women more acceptable. By the time Prohibition was repealed, the female presence at the local watering hole had become a common appearance.

World War II only further eroded the male exclusivity of bars and pubs. As more women entered the workforce, it became acceptable to socialize with their male co-workers in taverns and lounges after work.

Today, there aren’t many bars around that cater only to men (gay bars being an obvious exception). Instead, bars have become a place where the sexes come together to mingle and look for a special someone.

Note the article’s title: “The Decline of Male Space.” Men used to own the world. Now, we don’t. We have relinquished the privilege and obligation of socializing, turned it over to the gals, and toddled off to the basement to go play with our train sets. The women do what we used to do — they hold court and they compare their notes with each other, try to see if there’s some hidden meaning of everyday events that might affect the family.

This is precisely what their great-great-grandfathers did. The very same thing.

And so I grow weary of having to explain this. Yes, “Yin” is traditionally female, although I use it to describe a personality attribute that predominantly is to be found in our males. Yang, likewise, is traditionally male, although it describes things our women usually do and that our men, typically, don’t. The concept didn’t flip around, the gender roles did. And so, I have to concede that The Bastidge is accurate in his critique:

Your theory’s alright, if a bit vague and rambling. But Yin and Yang have a specific meaning, and you’re using them more or less backwards.

Yin is a concept roughly aligned with the female, but the concepts covered in your theory- group consciousness, socializing, consensus, softness, weakness, emotion, passivity, are all associated with it.

Yang is roughly male, but also strong, factual, direct, resolute, hard, aggresiive, etc.

In their crudest, most basic form, yin and yang refer to the female and male sexual organs.

My use of these names was arbitrary anyway, and that was on purpose. For the last five years I have seen these as placeholders for something more descriptive that would, and should, come later. After I’d given it another think. Well, with this morass of a health care “debate” that has been taking place, and will surely flare up again later this year, I’ve been forced to give it another think. Besides of which, I’ve met lots and lots of manly-male guys who do their thinking in a much “Yangy-er” way than a lot of the females…so the genders don’t fit well in any case.

And I think the terms are these:

Architects and Medicators.

The word “Architect” is chosen with care. Way back in our history, when written language was a novel idea, architects were “master builders” (which is the etymology of the term). These things they labored to construct, with every little piece of it not put in place properly, could very likely collapse and wipe out an entire family in a heartbeat. And so laws were passed condemning failed architects to a death by stoning (Code of Hammurabi, Law 229). That’s a little gruesome, but it had the effect of galvanizing their chosen profession into a noble discipline.

In their own little community, a “Climategate” e-mail scandal would not, could not, have been tolerated even for an instant. Things were the way they were — period. An angle was ninety degrees, or it wasn’t — period. Up was up and down was down — period. There was no room for bastardizing the peer review process into some mutation of what it was intended to be, to ostracize and excoriate colleagues who spoke measurable truth. The architect, hundreds of years before Christ, lived in an object-oriented world and thought about that world in an object-oriented way.

Okay, now let’s look at what I’ve set up as the polar opposite.

“Medicator,” similarly, is chosen with deliberate thought and intent. “Physician” doesn’t work because physicians are supposed to adhere to the Hypocratic Oath and First Do No Harm. The verb “medicate” is applied to addictions, primary among those being mind-altering substances. It speaks to a process of adjusting one’s emotional response to reality as a first priority, with recognizing that reality as a distinctly second-place priority. Medicators do not heal. Nor do they seek to do harm. The long-term welfare of the body is simply outside of their concern. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that there is an emotional well-being that they prize more highly.

To recognize reality as it really is, and to adjust one’s emotional profile in response to the reality so that it is unconditionally cheery, are two mutually-exclusive goals. It may not seem to be the case when reality happens to be pleasant. But when reality is unpleasant you can choose to wrestle with it to whatever extent is required to fix a problem, or you can choose to ignore it in order to keep your emotions on a high and even keel. The sacrifice of long-term satisfaction in order to achieve a short-term high is, of course, a defining hallmark of medicating.

One Revolution AwayNow, these people trying to shove this fustercluck of a health care bill down our throats: It’s no mystery at all where they come down. They are medicators. It is not a primary goal of theirs to actually treat illnesses, heal the sick, bring “healthcare” or “access to healthcare” to “the uninsured.” Nor are they trying — architect-style — to solve any kind of a problem, President Obama’s unceasing speechifying notwithstanding. Think on it: When is the last time you heard anyone in Washington use those phrases above? Been awhile, hasn’t it? No, lately it’s about “getting this done.” Beating the opposition. Winning. Make things the way they/we want them to be. But wait just a second…we’re half way through an election cycle, one that began with their decisive victory. They already beat the opposition. Their victory is forgotten, however, just like a druggie’s high, and they find themselves incomplete, hungry, after-buzzed, struck with a raging case of Delerium Tremens if they don’t score another victory. And after they get that done, of course, they’ll need another and another and another. They live out their lives on a hairpin turn, just like a druggie. Time loses all meaning for them. Bliss is constantly one hit away.

It’s not about health care, of course. It’s about how we think about the world around us. The medicator lives in a gilded cage, waiting passively for someone to come along and fix the latest problem. He does not solve real problems, he does not support anyone who would solve real problems, he does not live in reality. He considers reality itself to be an inimical force. This, ironically, provides a liberating effect. Of course it’s all about the way one does one’s thinking to perceive the world around him, and with someone else assuming the burden of actually fixing the problem, the thinker enjoys the luxury of thinking about things as a non-architect. In a non-object-oriented way. With every little thing on God’s creation, melted together into a sloppy mess. And this overly-medicated “thinker” does not think, in turn, about the resulting mess; instead, he picks up an emotional vibe from it, and shares it with other self-medicated thinkers. That’s the model of reality as perceived by the medicator: A great big ball of warm, gooey wax that’s all melted together, and is now giving off vibes. Hopefully good ones, but if they’re bad ones then someone else needs to fix something — or it’s time for another “hit” of something via one-more-revolution.

Disciplining a child provides a similar contrast. To the architect, everything is cause and effect: The child engaged in undesirable behavior, therefore something needs to be modified about what the child perceives as proper or improper. The solution is to teach the child a new taboo. This can be done through direct communication if the child shares the desire that his behavior should be proper, or through punishment if he does not. First of all the transgression has to be properly categorized — bad attitude, or simple misunderstanding? Then we assess what the child understands about etiquette and go from there. In the Architect’s world, that’s what we do.

In the Medicator’s world, the exercise really is one of medication! Concentrating on something is not a task that was, for one reason or another, failed in this case; it is an ability that has gone missing because the child’s “brain isn’t wired quite right.” Of course the solution is to put the child on a prescription for some goop that will alter his emotional state, and make the process “easier for him.” (It’s nearly always a him.)

Another acid test is when a complex system of any kind starts producing the wrong output, because some unit within it starts to go all wonky — with all the other units in good order. To the Architect and Medicator alike, this is a no-brainer, but they come up with polar-opposite solutions. The Medicator wants to chuck the whole thing and start from scratch, whereas the Architect sees a puzzle to be solved in separating what’s good from what’s busted. Think of Blondie and Dagwood getting in one of their matrimonial melees about whether to call the plumber.

I commented last month that I had finally expunged the malware from my HP Mini notebook. My victory announcement was premature, it turned out. The beastie lived on, downloading other crap onto my platform. It shames me to say it, but if I were to act purely on logic and reasonable cost-benefit analyses, I would have taken the “scorched earth” approach much, much earlier than I did, and lost a lot less time. It became an Ahab/whale thing; I lost sight of fixing the problem, and concentrated instead on figuring out entirely useless trivia about it. Where’d I pick up this thing? What exactly does it contaminate? How come these packages over here can detect it and fool themselves into thinking they’re cleaning it, when they’re not? How come that package over there seems to have “wounded” it (toward the end, it locked up the netbook instead of popping up an ad, which is what it was clearly trying to do)…but can’t quite get all of it?

See, neither Architects or Medicators enjoy a monopoly on always having the right idea. Medicators throw things away in bulk — they are much more inclined to announce “this entire thing is bolluxed!” That is often the right approach, and I have to make a confession…my second one, now…that I’ve often missed out on this advantage when it comes up. Medicators seem to think life has no puzzles in it, none whatsoever. And they probably think this because, in the world they construct around themselves by accepting some responsibilities and simply walking away from some other ones, they’re absolutely right. Choices confront them — choices in which the wrong answer results in some kind of personal suffering — and they become petulant, unpleasant, and then someone else swoops in and solves it for them.

In their world, the question of who gets the “rep” as a problem solver, is completely isolated from the record of who did or didn’t actually solve problems. At no time has this been more evident, than this first year of watching our new President struggle with the demands of His new job. He is a dedicated Medicator. He fixes nothing. The only responsibility He takes is to refine the emotional buzz that comes from this thing or that one…and having failed even at that, He has a ready finger-of-blame to point somewhere else so He can give Himself a good report card. Which He did, actually. That one single act speaks volumes not only to how He thinks about the world and the challenges within it; it is a tip-off to how medicators think as well. You’ll notice this about them if you know some really dedicated ones personally. They enter into conflict with others, because they tend to demand the final word about their own work. It was up to par, the other guy just has a mistaken interpretation of “par.” They followed the instructions they were given, it’s the other guy’s fault for not giving them the right ones.

Running a meeting is yet another good litmus test. Some meeting chairs do it right: Agenda item, question, answer, does anyone have any objections, next agenda item — boom, boom, boom. Others engage in this ludicrous and time-consuming practice of using the forum to adjust the emotional tenor of the participants, as if it’s a high school pep rally. Buying a car: Any salesman will tell you, some people turn their thoughts to the TCO with considerations such as gas mileage, service records, availability of parts. Others worry overly much about how they look when they’re tooling around in the car, what strangers will think of them.

Homeowners’ Association bylaws can be written to accommodate one of these halves of humanity, or the other, or both. This is a rather interesting situation, because the bylaws represent an attempt to “architect” a successful neighborhood, through the “medication” of the emotions of the people who observe it. Here and there, though, we see stories in the news surrounding HOA bylaws that are, to turn a rustic phrase, just plain stupid. They don’t do anything to make people feel good and it seems extravagant and far-fetched to suppose they could have anything to do with preserving the value of the property. Banning the American flag is the one example that springs immediately to mind, since those stories have a way of jumping onto the front page.

The last time we linked one of these, the story in question showcased a persistent trait among the Medicators: proxy offense.

[M]anagement told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community.

The controlling curmudgeon lays down the curmudgeonly rule, and the curmudgeon is silent on whether he or she personally finds the emblem, the e-mail, the cologne, the pin-up calendar, et al, offensive. It’s much more often proxy: Some third party is offended. Or some third party could be offended. The impossible-to-meet “Could Be Interpreted As” standard of cleanliness. It is conceivably possible, therefore the contraband has to go. The curmudgeon will oversee the removal. But it’s business and not personal, see? Just like something out of The Godfather: “Tell Michael I always liked him, it was business, not personal.” Some nameless faceless anonymous person complained, or could complain.

This dedicated Architect says — Medicators really shouldn’t be running anything. They don’t want to. They don’t want the responsibility. This is why these columns are now coming out, some serious and some satirical, that speculate openly that President Obama is perhaps bored and disenchanted with His own job. I no longer consider it to be commentary outside my sphere of knowledge, to proffer that President Obama had some serious misgivings the first time He made a decision about something that had little-or-nothing to do with winning an election, saw that His decision had a direct bearing upon the outcome, and emotionally recoiled. I have seen this happen too many times, up close. In the months since then, the country has been buried in this “awkward stage” in which He tries to confront each and every single challenge with a vision that, as this-or-that chapter reaches the final page, the emotional buzz of those watching has been fine-tuned and frothed up into a desirable state of bliss. This is, I’m sure, why we’ve seen so many speeches out of Him during His first year, and will doubtless see about that many out of Him during His second.

We live in a society in which our every want and need is met, with resistance or inconvenience that is at best negligible. It may not seem like that to us at the time because we’re spoiled; we tend to mistake a temporary slow-down, or wrong turn, or setback, for a real possibility of failure in acquiring what we’re trying to acquire. Deep down, we all know we’re not really being challenged by much of anything; we will get what we are trying to get, one way or the other, so long as some minimal quantity of our peers are also trying to get the same thing. If all else fails we’ll band together and our populist rage will force someone to give it to us. We’re supposed to be so worried about “the economy” but we have our beer, our coffee, our big teevee screens. The only things that are really in jeopardy are the self-respect and dignity that come from having a job, and the same for our children. All other things are guaranteed, in one way or another. They don’t face any real jeopardy.

This state of hyper-safe hyper-civilization has aggravated the divide between — whate’er you wanna callzem, Yin and Yang, or Architects and Medicators — as I’ve pointed out before. It creates a bigger divide on such fundamental questions as: What is a good speech, anyway? What is a convincing argument? Is it thinky-thinky or feelie-feelie? In other words, do you progress systematically among the first three pillars, basing your opinions/inferences upon available fact and things-to-do upong the opinions/inferences. Or, do you just stir up a whole lot of motivating emotions in your audience, get them all outraged against some straw-man Snidely Whiplash, anti-logical exuberance for your “ideas,” Obama-style?

And the fact is, Architects have a definite idea in mind about the answer to such rudimentary questions.

Another fact is, Medicators have a definite idea about the answer as well. These ideas are not the same. They are opposites.

Another fact is, neither side is willing to budge on such issues. If you have a pulse, and a brain, and you’ve been using your brain to solve problems that confront you here and there…each day you stay alive further enmeshes you in the answer you chose, way back, before you were five years old.

And the least inconvenient fact of all is that if we cannot agree on questions like those, we aren’t going to agree on anything else.

We are engaged in a discourse between people who understand how to make real decisions, and those who do not understand this and do not seek to understand this. They don’t see the need. But since they’ve “won,” for the time being it is their job…even if they continue to find ways to weasel out of it, and blame others when the job goes undone.

Best Sentence LXXXII

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The eighty-second award for Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately (BSIHORL) goes to The Blog Prof, writing about local politics in Macomb County, MI.

The first rule in a Democrat hegemony is to threaten public safety to either 1) raise taxes, or 2) continue to fund overgenerous benefits to unions and thus avoid making necessary cuts. This is what I termed the “human shield” strategy, and Macomb County has trotted it out many times. How many more examples does the electorate need that Democrats simply have priorities backwards? The first role of government is the protection of its citizens. First role! Numero Uno. The prime directive. Yet, when faced with budget crises of their own doing, the Democrat modus operindi is to cut public safety, but also to wrap golden union benefits in an impenetrable shield of bureaucratic red tape.

Hat tip to Proof Positive.

I was noticing this myself. As a philosophy, the democrat worldview seems to have a lot to do with giving up freedom and opportunity in order to bolster personal security to unrealistic levels — so many of their identifications of deficiencies in the status quo seem to revolve around bad things that might conceivably happen — but they flip over like a pancake the minute a threat becomes genuine. Or measurable.

Here, I’ll sum it up in a single sentence:

Global warming is a real problem we have to solve but jihad-based terrorism is a nuisance.

Maybe they really don’t give a rip about freedom or safety…they’re just opposed to reality.

Or maybe they’re just telling people whatever they have to tell them, to get hold of more loot to distribute to their friends. That would explain just about everything. Except then, the democrat politician becomes, uh, well, pretty much exactly what he says the Republicans are. Just with different friends. The Republican is the friend of that awful guy with the mustache in the pinstripe suit smoking his cigar in the corner office…who is accountable to the court system and to the shareholders. The democrat is the friend of the union boss who is accountable to nobody. Everyone who might possibly do something to him, is bought off with money taken from other people. Money that represents wealth the union boss did not create.

Perhaps we don’t need to be concerned so much with the democrat who tries to be Robin Hood. Maybe the nightmare scenario is the democrat who plays the part of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

His Blank Slate VI

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

What went wrong, according to Victor Davis Hanson:

We are witnessing one of the more rapid turnabouts in recent American political history. President Obama’s popularity has plummeted to 50 percent and lower in some polls, while the public expresses even less confidence in the Democratic-led Congress and the direction of the country at large. Yet, just eight months ago, liberals were talking in Rovian style about a new generation to come of progressive politics — and the end of both the Republican party and the legacy of Reaganism itself. Barack Obama was to be the new FDR and his radical agenda an even better New Deal.

What happened, other than the usual hubris of the party in power?

First, voters had legitimate worries about health care, global warming, immigration, energy, and inefficient government. But it turns out that they are more anxious about the new radical remedies than the old nagging problems. They wanted federal support for wind and solar, but not at the expense of neglecting new sources of gas, oil, coal, and nuclear power. They were worried about high-cost health care, the uninsured, redundant procedures, and tort reform, but not ready for socialized medicine. They wanted better government, not bigger, DMV-style government. There is a growing realization that Obama enticed voters last summer with the flashy lure of discontent. But now that they are hooked, he is reeling them in to an entirely different — and, for many a frightening — agenda. Nothing is worse for a president than a growing belief among the public that it has been had.

Second, Americans were at first merely scared about the growing collective debt. But by June they became outraged that Obama has quadrupled the annual deficit in proposing all sorts of new federal programs at a time when most finally had acknowledged that the U.S. has lived beyond its means for years. They elected Obama, in part, out of anger at George W. Bush for multi-billion dollar shortfalls — and yet as a remedy for that red ink got Obama’s novel multi-trillion-dollar deficits.

Third, many voters really believed in the “no more red/blue state America” healing rhetoric. Instead, polls show they got the most polarizing president in recent history — both in his radical programs and in the manner in which he has demonized the opposition to ram them through without bipartisan support. “Punch back harder” has replaced “Yes, we can.”

I’m guessing maybe three quarters out of all the electorate has little-to-no understanding about the civil war raging between conservative and liberal…or does understand it, and doesn’t care for it. Wants to wish it away. If they could ask one single question each election cycle that defines their concerns, the question would be Rodney King’s “Can’t we all just get along?”

The answer is no.

From global warming to drilling in ANWR to abortion to home-schooling to minimum wage to single-payer healthcare to the death tax to the card check bill to the death panels to “negotiating” with terrorists to the airborne laser to the right to keep and bear arms. The issues are all the same. They all boil down to one thing: Are people glorious. Do they have potential. Can they have ideas…as individuals. Are they worthy of a vigorous, terrible and lethal defense.

Is it a more noble exercise of the human creativity to create things — or to destroy things. It all comes down to that.

And last fall we didn’t vote for a creator. Well…some of us did. But most of us didn’t.

The Realities of College Education

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Having spent a lifetime holding down jobs that are supposed to demand a college degree, while not having any formal education beyond high school, I’m still undecided about whether I possess experience here that should be shared. Maybe I should take the lead, maybe I should keep my mouth shut. I see a lot of evidence for both of those viewpoints.

Oh well, you know this guy knows what he’s talking about.

Get ready for some unpleasant surprises.

The general requirements of the first two years at most colleges are what high school should have been. That is what junior should have learned had he not been busy getting high, getting drunk, and being socially promoted.

Better high schools frequently use the same textbooks for the mandatory requirements that are used in the first two years of college. If a high school draws from the upper end of the socioeconomic scale, the courses will be more demanding than the first two years of most colleges.

Although it is fashionable to talk of our strength being our diversity, it is simply not true when teaching in a college classroom. Teachers have to teach to some middle ground, and that middle ground is going to be higher in an upper-tier high school. A classroom that draws from a wide swath of socioeconomic groups is going to have people of vastly different preparation and skill levels.

You might ask: What about admissions requirements? Aren’t these students qualified to do college work? Absolutely not! Advertised admissions requirements, save for the best institutions, are meaningless. Even in the best institutions, admissions requirements are highly suspect, given the imperative to produce a diverse student body. Advertised standards are what colleges would like their student body to look like. At many institutions, roughly twenty-five percent of students fail to meet published admissions standards.

Public colleges get reimbursed on a head count basis, so taking in more students for unused space means more revenue. In addition, every out-of-state student provides nearly twice the revenue. If your child has a mediocre academic record, have him apply to an out-of-state public college or university. You can experience the joy of paying out-of-state tuition, while still retaining the bragging rights so vital to sending your kid to college.

This is a rather old complaint, but I’ve noticed a subtly different thing going on lately which is a testament to things rounding a sharp corner right about now. I am referring here to the job requirements end of things. Simply put, in the recent years past I am absolutely flabbergasted at the rather humble positions out there that are popularly thought to require a college degree.

That lady in the restaurant who finds you your table and then goes and tells a waiter you’re ready to place your order — we’re not there quite yet. And no offense intended for restaurant hostesses, but if your position does not require a college degree, well, I think for the time being that’s appropriate. Nevertheless. I do expect that to change any year now the way things are going.

It’s like the requirement is applied, or at least some loudmouth is saying it should apply, to any job in which the successful applicant is going to be expected to read.

Nobody questions it. But someone should make an issue out of it, if for no other reason, than to sound the alarm bells about what employers do & do not recognize in high school graduation requirements. The implication, obviously, is that high school graduates can’t be relied-upon to know how to read. Is there some distance between that supposition, and what is really happening?

I hope so. But I don’t think so.

More Jobs Whacked; NY Times Sees Hope

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Good old Gray Lady, engaging that objective, balanced journalism for which she has become known:

The American economy shed another 345,000 jobs in May as the unemployment rate spiked to 9.4 percent, but the losses were far smaller than economists expected, amplifying hopes of recovery.

“It supports the idea that before the end of the year and maybe even by late summer we could be at flat employment,” meaning no more net job losses, said Alan D. Levenson, chief economist at T. Rowe Price in Baltimore. “During the course of next year, we’ll probably start to feel better.”

Wow, we should keep democrats in charge all the time, if for no other reason than to keep a spirit of exuberant optimism around our failing newspapers. After all, we know from experience that when the other guys are in charge, a slowdown-in-job-losses isn’t nearly enough to keep ‘em in such chipper spirits…since they’re so balanced, and objective, and all.

Well, I’m sure Obama’s patented two-step universal strategy of “wonderful speech, gobs of money” is going to work out just great. That is, if Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer’s response to The O’s tax plans is the exception, rather than the rule:

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steven Ballmer said the world’s largest software company would move some employees offshore if Congress enacts President Barack Obama’s plans to impose higher taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign profits.

“It makes U.S. jobs more expensive,” Ballmer said in an interview. “We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S.”

Obama on May 4 proposed outlawing or restricting about $190 billion in tax breaks for offshore companies over the next decade. Such business groups as the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have denounced the proposed overhaul.
:
Barry Bosworth, an economist in Washington at the Brookings Institution research center, said many software companies such as Microsoft have exploited tax and trade rules in the U.S. and other countries to achieve a low overall tax rate.

Typically, he said, a company like Microsoft develops a product like Windows in the United States and deducts those costs against U.S. income. It then transfers the technology to a subsidiary in Ireland, where corporate tax rates are lower, without charging licensing fees. The company then assigns its foreign sales to the Irish subsidiary so it doesn’t have to claim the income in the United States.

“What Microsoft wants to do is deduct the cost at a high tax rate and report the profits at a low tax rate,” Bosworth said. “Relative to where they are now, the administration’s proposals are less favorable, so there will be some rebalancing on their part.”

So our new proposals — hope and change, remember — are going to recover some of these lost jobs…how?

Pelosi CarIt’s a little peculiar, isn’t it, that software companies somehow aren’t “too big to fail.” I find it doubly odd, since I have some personal experience looking for work that puts Microsoft, in my eyes, in the position of the goose at the apex of the “V” that is responsible for breaking the turbulence for the rest of the flock. My experience showed that when Microsoft wasn’t terribly interested in creating new technology — their most recent operating system was a disaster that did next-to-nothing called “Vista” — nobody else was too interested in new technology either. Creating it or consuming it.

Now, auto companies don’t do too much innovation. Not when you compare the new features offered, against the number of years we need to wait for those offerings to come out. And what innovation they have been doing, for the most part just became the job of the federal government. Is that an exaggeration? I hope so. Time will tell.

But anyway…nobody is saying the technology companies are too big to fail. Savings and Loans that are artificially required to extend loans to people who would otherwise be found to be un-credit-worthy…newspapers that print up liberally-biased dreck we don’t want to read…car companies that sell oversized upside-down goldfish bowls for us to tootle around in, or are just about to…they are too big to fail.

What does the world need the United States for, anyway? Our lending power…with all this free cash we have lying around? Heh. Our cars? Double-heh. Our newspapers? Nope. Our ideas, that go into the software we write…well, after this revolution of “Technology Equals Portable Personal Tunes Plus Dogs-in-Purses,” we’ve lost our toehold there as well. But that one, we just might have a shot at getting back. Doing something to commercially justify our existence on the big blue marble. Wouldn’t that be a win-win? We design, other countries mass-produce.

But it would appear not to be in the cards. Our young people who would be going into software engineering, are far more interested in putting together music collections so they can stick those white earplugs in their ears, and be admired in awe by their friends, as they ignore everybody and listen to tunes. And carry artificially tiny dogs, with artificially tiny bladders, around in artificially expensive leather purses, every hour of every day just asking for a REAL mess when $600 designer handbags fill up with real dog shit.

Such fake children grow up into fake grown-ups. They see something they want and they don’t have yet…their impulse is not to go out and get it, or render valuable services to others to earn the material wealth needed to acquire whatever it is. Nope. Their impulse is to invent some new “human right” that has been violated because they don’t have it, and hold some micro-revolution to force someone to give it to them.

And Obama’s tax plan is motivating Microsoft, and God knows how many other companies, to relocate the last truly cerebral jobs to other countries, or at least seriously think about doing so. Creativity finds a welcoming home nowhere else. Our home design is done on assembly lines. Our accounting and lawyering is done on assembly lines. Our doctoring is done on assembly lines. Everything is proceduralized, except for that once-promising field of telling a computer exactly how it should be working on a problem. We’re getting rid of that now. Obama’s tax plan leaves us no other option.

Nation of veal calves.

Update 6/6/09: I was hoping someone would pipe up about this. The credit goes to the always-excellent Iowahawk for the graphic. Thanks to the loyal reader who tossed me an offline, for the information and for the kind remarks.

IT Guys and Marriage

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Dr. Helen has found something that gets her thinking, and me too.

Eleven men and one woman were asked about what they wished their spouse knew about their job. This is what the men said:

Most of the 11 other respondents’ answers to my question expressed some frustration with their jobs or with their marriages, or both. (The one woman who responded to my question wrote about the guilt-trips her kids lay on her for having to work long hours.) Their responses boiled down to the following five themes:

1. I don’t want to discuss the details of my workday when I get home.

2. Don’t call me at work unless it’s an emergency.

3. If I don’t return your phone call, it’s not because I’m mad at you/don’t love you. It’s because I’m busy.

4. IT management is not a 9-to-5 job. It’s complicated, demanding and stressful.

5. I’m not a tech support person, and I can’t fix all of the family’s home technology problems, especially when I’m at work. I spend my time on strategic issues and networking with other C-level executives.

The men in the article are seen as the “bad guys,” that is, they are seen as uncommunicative and insensitive to their wives–and blamed for their shortcomings. The summary of the piece makes this clear: “your answers spoke more about your communication mistakes at home than they did about your spouse’s shortcomings. Read on for advice on how to fix this before a nasty crash.”

Perhaps these IT men are a bit uncommunicative or perhaps they do have stressful jobs. But can you imagine if the same author interviewed women who were raising five kids and having a stressful time of it? Say the husband was calling home for some spousal care on the phone in the middle of three of the kids having a temper tantrum. Do you think anyone would be sympathetic to his plight and blame the wife for her communication mistakes? I rather doubt it.

I’ve spent very little of my lifetime being a married IT guy…which is a little odd, since I’ve spent all of it being a married-or-not IT guy. Marriage wasn’t happy in my case. I can’t clue you in on very many of the details, because I don’t have memories of them. Going back to anytime before my marriage was officially dissolved, some seventeen or eighteen years ago, it’s mostly just a big blur. A nugget or two from childhood, maybe. But anything before November of 1991, even though it’s my life, recalling something from it is like reading from a blackboard with several thick sheets of dirty plastic stretched across it. Some form of PTSD, I guess.

One thing I do remember: I had some depressed feelings about the yawning chasm between my wife’s interest in my paychecks, and in what I had been doing to earn them. She had such insatiable curiosity about one of those things, and little-to-none about the other. It’s a sad, sad thing, when you pledge your life to somebody and wake up one day to realize they aren’t smart enough to feed the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Back to what Dr. Helen is talking about: It is, of course, an assault upon masculinity; but it’s a rather complex one. What’s happened is that masculinity has been re-defined. A man’s ability to chop wood is worthless, his ability to defend the home from an intruder is worthless, his ability to open pickle jars and kill spiders is worthless. Worthless, as in, a lady who genuinely appreciates these skills, is going to be stigmatized and ostracized by other “ladies.” And on Planet Female, social ostracism has a profound effect that men can’t quite fully appreciate. Instead, women are to value men for: Communication. That’s it, and that’s all. Spending time with the family, being expressive, listening, listening and more listening. Empathy. Chatter. Agreement-over-clarity. Observing, over such a sustained timeframe and to such an intense level, that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is actuated, and it becomes unclear who is doing the observing and who is being observed. What Robert Heinlein called “grokking.”

This is not to say that men are valued for their ability to grok. That would call for the fashion-set to show some positive feelings for men, here and there. That cannot be the case. No, the ability to grok, is simply dangled in front of the gentlemen, as a carrot before a donkey. As a prize not to be won yet. As in “I wish you would do X more.” You don’t notice a man who does it well, except in the capacity of someone/something you cannot have. Wives who desire to be accepted by other wives, audibly inform their husbands “I wish you could be more like him.”

The IT guy, by his chosen life-work, routinely commits what today is the great sin: He places his attention on something that is not his woman, and sweats the details — over there. There is no penance for this sin. Off the clock, he may worship the ground upon which his lady walks, but hours before he demonstrated his readiness, willingness and ability to pay attention to something that is not her. This is a stain that cannot be washed away.

And so, in our modern society, after all this “progress” we have been making…the male who actually comes up with something someone can use someday, has to go through life apologizing for the way he lives it. This does a disservice and measurable damage to a lot more people than just him.

The Axis of Evil…Now

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Byron York writes about the Bush speechwriter responsible for the term “Axis of Evil,” and his reflections on whether it fits today.

Recently I called David Frum, who is a friend and also the Bush speechwriter who came up with the “Axis” concept. (He originally wrote it as “Axis of Hatred.”) Given the seriousness of the situations in Iran and North Korea today, I asked, why all the mocking of the concept, virtually from the very beginning?

“The thing I never cease to marvel at,” Frum told me, “is that the phrase has become more and more of a joke even as the demonstration of the validity of the concept has become more extensive.” Frum listed some of the things the public knows now that it didn’t when Bush gave his speech — the A.Q. Khan network, the Iran-North Korea connection, the Iran-Hamas link. That’s just the kind of thing Bush was talking about.

But why were people ever laughing? Well, a lot of them just liked to laugh at Bush. But Frum believes there’s something else — the complicated nature of the word “evil.” “It just seemed overtorqued,” he told me. We use the word “evil,” Frum explained, in two very different ways. One is the totally serious sense in which we describe a very, very small group of bad actors — a group that doesn’t extend far beyond Adolf Hitler. The other is the sense in which we use “evil” as a light-hearted description for things that are at most a bit naughty — like saying we feel “evil” after ordering the chocolate cake. “If you’re not talking about Hitler, you’re talking about cake,” Frum said. “That’s why it was funny.” But that incongruity made it difficult for people to take the “Axis of Evil” seriously, even though it was, and is, quite serious.

…[T]wo-thirds of the “Axis of Evil” are still at it, and still among the most pressing problems facing the United States today. And that’s no “Saturday Night Live” skit.

I have a different thought about that word “evil.” Whether you’re talking about an evil tinpot dictator or an evil slice of chocolate cake, in my mind, is fairly well determined in an instant, right down to the very core of the brain of the person using or hearing the word. I don’t think Frum’s thoughts here make a great deal of sense, frankly, because I don’t think there’s any lack of understanding or ambiguity here whatsoever.

I think that lack of ambiguity is the problem. People laugh at the term…out of nervousness.

It commands a sense of responsibility. It commands action. I say “that guy down the street did something rude…” or “liberal…” or “radical…” or even “environmentally unsound…” and it seems more than reasonable to leave well enough alone, go back to watching Dancing With the Stars and gnawing on a butter stick.

But to say someone close by did something evil — that’s practically the same as demanding someone actually do something about it. Who among us can say out loud “I know of an evil thing that is being done but I’m not going to do anything about it”? Sure you can do that, but you can’t take pride in it.

So if you’re already fixated on laziness, and someone comes along to point out something evil was done, that gentleman is ruling out continued laziness as an option. That’s why he has to be ridiculed and mocked. It’s absolutely necessary.

The irony is, in such a lazy society, the only thing that remains truly evil is noticing evil. And, after a time, the only thing that remains “good” is a readiness, willingness and ability to pretend evil is not taking place when you know damn good and well that it is.

These are treacherous times. We’re allowing our court jesters to become our kingmakers. Down that road lies a sure path to ruin.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…” — Isaiah 5:20

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Women Naturally Inclined to be “Hotties”

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

A balmier climate tends to produce more baby girls:

People who live in the tropics have more baby girls compared with those living in other parts of the world, work reveals.

Tropical HottieIt may be down to the hotter weather or the longer days, says US researcher Dr Kristen Navara in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

She says this climate may change miscarriage rates and sperm quality.

Or there may be some evolutionary advantage to having more girls than boys if you live by the equator.

Experts already know that the birth rates of boys and girls vary across the globe.

While some of this can be explained by society – in countries like China baby boys are favoured and many unborn girls are electively aborted – there are natural processes at work.

Research suggests the female foetus is less fragile than the male foetus, which is more prone to the effects of the environment on pregnant women.
:
Dr Bill James of University College London, who has spent his career studying sex ratio patterns, said although the differences found were statistically significant, it was not as meaningful as other factors that have been linked to sex ratios at birth.
:
“The idea is that, in mammals, males have a greater variance in their reproductive success.

“Some have lots of offspring and others have none, whereas most females will have at least one offspring.

“So it pays a women who is reproductively fit in good times to have a boy because he may well give her more grandchildren.

“But when times are hard and if she is less reproductively fit, she is better off having a girl because in this way she should gain at least one grandchild.”

Is it just me, or did this article stop making sense about halfway through?

I’m not trying to be a sexist, here, but when I think of tough climates versus wimpy climates, I’m thinking the tough one is the cold one and the unwind-after-work one is the beach with the white sand, the waiter bringing me a weird blue or green drink with an umbrella in it. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the Pacific Northwest, I dunno. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m in a cushier latitude now, one with palm trees…listening to California natives bitch and bitch whenever it’s any crisper than 60 degrees.

My point is, these scientists talk as if they know, if they say something about the males being better suited for a colder climate, they’ll lose all their grant money for the next several years. Men must always be weak, women must always be durable. Think about it. We’re up to our eyeballs in these “scientific studies,” multiple times per month, if not per week. How many years has it been since you’ve seen a study suggesting the male characteristics are better suited for…anything?

This one twists the logic around 180 degrees. Statistically significant differential in girl-versus-boy babies born in a gentler climate…and so we have to make this look like the female fetus is more robust. You know, it could very well be. But how do you get from there, to here? Somewhere, they explained that, and I missed it.

Every man who’s ever been married…every man who’s ever lived with a woman, and a thermostat…knows. Women hate being cold. It’s not sexism — it’s just a fact. It’s their bodies, they’re built to be pregnant.

Go out jogging sometime. See all the cute lady joggers. Now keep on doing it until school starts…then into October…when the low pressure systems pull all the rain in. Where’d they all go? Dude, I don’t wanna see that! Nothing around but a bunch of ugly Rocky Balboa wanna-bes. Happens every year. Weather gets cold, the women are gone. Science is going to say that’s because women are more resilient?

Whatever; that science has become politicized, is pretty old news by now. But it’s interesting that nature may have a way of singling out the sex of the baby based on the climate. It’s pretty easy to see this kind of musing and speculating is still, after centuries, in the stages of “we don’t even know what we don’t yet know.”

My Mom used to say it was the personality of the mother. If woman having the babies, had what it took to whip the kids into shape, said kids would turn out to be boys. The dilemma with the baby crying after bedtime, for example. Her theory was, if your tendency as a mother was to come running when you heard some whimpering in the crib, you’d probably have girls. If you had that streak in you that would permit you to lay down some “whoopass,” you’d probably have boys. She had two.

You know one thing I didn’t see discussed at all, in spite of this sumptuous banquet of theories to toss around — was the frequency of sexual activity. If you live in a place that’s cold enough, it has a real impact on what you can do with your spare time. There are plenty of spots on this big rock where it is so cold, for so much of the year, that when the work is done you can only do one thing.

Hmmm…that seems to me a sufficiently solid idea to at least toss in the pot. If that’s proven out over time, it would mean the discrepancy has nothing to do with the innate robustness of girls versus boys, or vice-versa.

This Is Good LX

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Scipio

Future Present
Posted on March 29th, 2009 by Scipio

Our archeologist, while rummaging among the ruins of our fallen civilization, met a ghost from the long dead race of Americans. The wraith boasted much about what we had been as a people.

We died in the hundreds of thousands to end slavery here and around the world.

We invented Jazz.

We wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg address.

We went to the moon to see how far we could hit a golf ball.

We lifted a telescope into orbit that could see to the edge of the universe.

When people snuck into the country against our laws, we made parking lots and food stands off to the side of the road so they wouldn’t get hurt, and we let them use our hospitals for free, and we made their children citizens.

We didn’t care what God you worshipped as long as we could worship ours.

We let the People arm themselves at will. Just to make sure.

We gave everybody the vote.

We built Disneyworld. Just for fun.

We had a revolution so successful it was still going strong two and a quarter centuries later.

We had so many heroes, even at the end, that we felt free to hate them and burn them in effigy.

We electrified the guitar.

We invented a music so compelling that it rocked the world.

The archeologist asked, “If you accomplished all of this, then why did your nation collapse?” The ghost answered, “Because we went insane.”

“Please explain.”

The ghost took a breath and said, “We traded beauty for ugliness, truth for lies, liberty for comfort, love for indifference, responsibility for frivolity, duty for entertainment, history for sound bites, and children for pleasure. We had gold, but we tossed it aside and replaced it with cleverly designed dross. We turned men into women and women into men and marveled at our new creative power. We stopped looking up to Heaven and began to keep our gaze firmly fixed on the ground. We abandoned the old God for a host of hip, cool and slick new ones.”

“And?”

“Those new gods turned on us. At first they granted us our every wish. They laughed with us. They danced with us. We all ate, drank and made all sorts of merry. All of us exulted in our power. And then…” Here the ghost stopped for a moment. His mouth was half open as if trying to speak. His body shuddered as it remembered an ancient terror. “But there were some among us who felt something was wrong, dreadfully wrong.”

“How so?”

There’s more…much more. What’re you still doing here?

R and R-Lite Instead of D and D-Lite

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Cylarz has a challenge in the comments section that really makes you think. His intent is to show how absurd is the notion that Rush Limbaugh is running much of anything, along with the idea that anyone, anywhere, is somehow forced to listen to him:

Imagine what life in this nation would be like if our parties were Republican and Republican-lite…instead of Democrat and Democrat-lite. The former is what the political scene would look like if everyone were listening to Rush.

It is my conviction that American consensus-politics are revolving on the rim of a large wheel. It is a merry-go-round that spins into & out of, not so much conservatism and liberalism, but fantasy and reality. Right now we’re on the 1976-77 sector of the wheel, wherein we just installed a hopey-changey youthful-charismatic guy who’s gonna solve all our problems. This is an exceptionally narrow pie-slice of the wheel’s orbit. It’s over in the blink of an eye. We see life’s problems are ours to solve and it’s not realistic to elect some savior-champion to deal with them on our behalf…we see it some more…we see it some more…lesson learned. For a few more years.

This dream Cylarz has, is at the opposite side…and is perhaps a little bit wider. It’s the 1969-1973, 1980-1986 side of the wheel.

So it’ll happen. It’ll happen, and we’ll get tired of it. All this stuff is inevitable, as the wheel keeps on turning. That’s my point. We kick the democrats out of power when we get tired of fantasy; when we notice, that to keep liberal ideas even looking good, there’s this never-ending pressure on to pretend simple things are complicated, and complicated things are simple. After awhile we get tired of that and we kick ‘em out. We fire the Republicans when we notice, gee, it’s been awhile since we engaged the government to solve a problem and watched the problem disappear before our very eyes, wouldn’t that be neat? (The conservative platform is constructed around the paradigm that this isn’t really the purpose of government; in that way, the Founding Fathers worked under well-defined conservative bias.) People will listen to Rush, to learn what they should’ve learned before they went to vote. It’s already started to happen. It’s that human instinct to think and think and think some more about “did I turn off the stove?” when the car is zipping on down the freeway and it’s way too late to do anything about it.

But imagine if things were that way, and they stayed that way? I notice when we’re in the fantasy zone, we really are D and D-Lite. Oooh, look at me, I’m a compassionate conservative, I can blow money away on bullshit projects just as fast as my democrat “friends”; vote for me. When Republicans are in power the liberals don’t engage in some contest to see who can be the most-moderate lib. They just get all pissy and mumble the word “fascism” a lot.

So lessee…what would happen…

That last election would have been between Fred Thompson & Sarah Palin…and…Joe Lieberman and Ron Paul. Dr. Paul would be considerably more hawkish, his concerns about the constitutionality of the War on Terror ejected from his platform. Gen. David Petraeus would now have a fifth star. We would have pulled out of the United Nations.

A massive stimulus bill would have injected trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy over the next decade-and-a-half…in the form of a tax cut.

Barack Obama’s formidable oratory skills would be deployed where they would do the most good: On a radio or television program, trying to compete with Rush Limbaugh.

The front page of my local newspaper, and yours, wouldn’t speak very often to the plight of: state legislators pretending to care about balancing the budget, homeless people, unionized workers, ignorant addle-brained students who can’t graduate high school because they haven’t learned anything, prison guards, single moms, troubled youth, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. They’d live in a larger, better-informed world. Their headlines would very seldom deploy words like “BUDGET” and “DEFICIT” and “PROGRAM” and “NEED”…instead, you’d see proud, hopeful words in those daily headlines like “FREEDOM” and “OPPORTUNITY” and “LIBERTY.”

Your television “news” program wouldn’t talk too much about liberal programs are going to do. They’d be better-anchored to reality; they’d talk about what tax cuts have done, versus what liberal programs have done.

When some big major mega-city that’s been run by democrats for generation after generation, runs into a predictable budget deficit…you’d hear about it that way. An important part of the news report would be an editorial analysis of some rival city, floating along free of the concern of ever-enlarging social programs, without the deficits and without the liberals running everything. The news report would go through the budgets, line by equivalent line. After all, it isn’t useful news unless we explain why the problem occurred, is it?

Kids can pray in the classroom. Every classroom. If they don’t know English yet, they’re sent to remedial classes to learn it, before they learn another thing. Kids know how to fire guns, shoot arrows, build fires, tie knots. Intelligent Design? It’s recognized as precisely what it is: Just an idea that the universe, particularly the bits of it that make life possible, is here because of non-random activity as opposed to random activity. And then it’s debated. As science. Which it is.

Oh, and before I forget: This asshole is locked up for good, and/or fried crispy.

A convicted sex offender due to be released Saturday from prison after serving 11 months warned in letters that if set free, he would reoffend, even against children. In the letters, Michael McGill begged authorities to keep him locked up for life.

“Please throw the book at me … I’m harmful to others I should be locked up for life,” he wrote in block letters that resemble a child’s writing. “I will sexual abuse men. Do this for the safe (sic) of others then I be able not to hurt anyone else. Judge I’m begging you to put me away.”

In another place he wrote that he had told his two 7-year-old male victims, “I will do more sex crimes with boys 4 to 14. I will molest with boys 15 to 18.”

Neither the Polk County attorney’s office, which prosecuted McGill and distributed his letters to other agencies, nor the Iowa Board of Parole, nor the attorney general’s office, which handles civil commitments for sexually violent predators, says it can do anything to prevent McGill’s release.

Feminists are about as powerful…oh…as they are right now. See, we still have that going for us. People have only partially lost their minds. They’re still not ready to trust feminists again just yet. Feminists get together in their little clubs, isolated from everyone else, sharing notes with each other along with instructions to help-me-hate-this-thing-over-here. That’s the form in which they want to exist. Everyone else, walled off from them, gets work done, makes money, and has fun doing it.

At work, you can still be sent to sensitivity training — if you’ve somehow demonstrated this is necessary. Departments of people are not sent to mandatory sensitivity training. People are not randomly sent to sensitivity training. You can’t unilaterally decide you were harassed; it really does depend on the will and intent of the alleged harasser. And nobody makes any money off of the sexual-harassment racket. If they’re in some position that is created to deal with this in some way, they do it as volunteers, because the issue is supposed to be so important to them…which only makes sense. In other words: Lawyers don’t run things.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit CalendarIn your work cubicle, or in your office, you can put up a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar. If anyone comes by to mutter so much as a peep of protest, that is the one treading on thin ice…not you. The phrases “objectification of women” and “unrealistic unhealthy body images” are about as socially acceptable in that world, as a racial epithet is in this one.

Family comedies do not conclude with a feel-good comedy-tragedy ending with the dad whacking himself in the head realizing he’s been a jerk, or an asshole, or a killjoy, or a workaholic. If anything, they end with the kid whacking himself in the forehead, belatedly realizing he should’ve been listening to his Dad.

Neighbors talk to each other. They have block parties. You don’t need to drive 40, 50, 60 miles into the county to discharge a pellet gun or a firearm. Once the shooting-range is set up, you can do it right in front of City Hall. On weekends, the whole town gets together for target shooting. Somewhere else, they have a beer garden. (You can’t go to the target shooting after you go to the beer festival, because alcohol and firearms don’t mix…yes, Republicans and conservatives do get that. Most of us bathe daily and have all our teeth. Really!)

Men do not stand by, brain-dead, clutching a purse outside the womens’ toilet, awaiting their next orders. They talk to other men. They get together and compare notes. They each express admiration for the sidearm the other fella has purchased to defend his lady and his children, should any bad guys be stupid enough to enter uninvited in the dark of some terrible night. They brag about who achieved the tightest grouping on the targets. And they fantasize, together, like giddy little boys, about muscle cars. Women get together and compare notes too. They don’t brag about whose boyfriend bought them the largest engagement ring, or who took charge of the family menu or what they told the hubby to start eating, or how they keep him from hogging the remote. Their rivalry is engaged, instead, in terms of who does the best job bringing her husband beer. “Oh yeah? I’d never think of handing it to him without the cap already popped off…and it’s always ice cold.”

Vice President Palin is even more influential in her new role, than Dick Cheney was in his. She’s a true role model. Women suddenly want their hair made up into her ‘do, just like they wanted to emulate Hillary’s back in the 1990′s. Palin’s face, in this universe, is everyplace Obama’s face is in this one. Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, USA Today…et al. (Obama’s face, in turn, could be on a milk carton somewhere.) Everything female is Palin, Palin, Palin. Women want to learn to fly airplanes, to fire shotguns, to ride ATVs, to clean rifles and pistols, to drive a dogsled…and to field dress a moose. The fashionable cliche, assuming there is one, is “Yoo betcha!”

Tenth Amendment, all the way. Some states and counties allow gay marriage and others don’t; some states and counties allow pot, and others don’t. Some states and counties are officially Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Scientologist, if they can get the votes. Nothing is singled out for social stigma, be it positive or negative. So a married gay man just might be an abuser and a generally bad husband, just like a married straight man — “loving” is no longer a euphemism for “same-sex.” And if you smoke pot, you just might have an addiction problem…just like someone who drinks, might have an addiction problem. That means, friends and family might be inclined to intervene if the signs are there. And anyone can be a religious fundamentalist whacko; not just the Christians. If your child needs medical care but you think his sickness is Gods’ will, the nanny-state might eventually interfere — if you’re showing signs of possibly lopping off your daughter’s head because she’d dating the wrong fella, the nanny-state just might interfere with that too. True equality.

When kids get into fights on the playground, all the trouble is reserved for the kid who threw the first punch. The kid who threw the last one, assuming that’s someone else, hasn’t got a single thing to worry about. And that’s precisely the way the world politics work, too.

You may say I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one.

Delaware Indoctrination

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Treatment.

Hat tip to Neo-neocon, who adds:

[I]t should come as no surprise that although the PC mind-control program is no longer in operation there, those who designed and implemented it are still employed by the university.

More hate. It’s turning into a “hate day” at House of Eratosthenes, I see. We’ll just try to stick to studying how it’s been re-defined lately, and avoid engaging in it…but the first thing we notice is this seems to be a trap into which many are tumbling. In fact the bulk of them are all walking off the cliff after walking the same well-worn path: Prove you aren’t hateful, by singling out the white guys, and putting the (something, don’t you dare call it hate) on ‘em.

I think the perfesser in the second installment — about four minutes in — nailed it. It’s not quite so much about tolerance, as about indoctrination. Prove you’re a good person by showing signs of inwardly believing what we told you to believe. You’re a racist if you see classes of people in ways other than the way we see them, but you’re alright if you see those things the way we do.

There is some value on this; this is the way a lot of people in the real world think. Share my prejudices and you’re alright. Don’t, and I’ll make-believe you have some different ones.

But what really concerns me about it? The intellectual laziness. If we want to find some experiences for high-school grads to endure, to get them acclimated to the pinheadedness and narrow-mindedness that eventually confronts all of us…why do they have to cut their teeth on such a misadventure, in their colleges?

Obama Presses for Longer School Year

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Yup, I can get behind this one. I can’t fully support his motives, but his position, and his stated reason for it, make perfect sense to me.

President Obama said Tuesday that American children should go to school longer — either stay later in the day or into the summer — if they’re going to have any chance of competing for jobs and paychecks against foreign kids.

“We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day,” Obama said, adding U.S. education to his already-crowded list of top priorities.

“That calendar may have once made sense, but today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for a 21st-century economy.

“I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas, not with Malia and Sasha,” Obama said, referring to his daughters, as the crowd laughed.

“But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.

“If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America.”

“Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us,” Obama said. “In eighth-grade math, we’ve fallen to ninth place. Singapore’s middle-schoolers outperform ours 3-to-1. Just a third of our 13- and 14-year-olds can read as well as they should.”

Among his proposals: extra pay for better teachers, something opposed by teachers unions.

“It is time to start rewarding good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones,” he said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Teachers groups applauded Obama’s speech, largely sidestepping the thorny question of merit pay.

“Teachers want to make a difference in kids’ lives, and they appreciate a president who shares that goal and will spend his political capital to provide the resources to make it happen,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers.

Of course, once they’re spending that extra time, what’re they doing?

I can think of two things that would have been of tremendous value to me if they’d taken place in the public school system; one of which would also apply to many others, the other of which, maybe, not so much.

Reconciling a checkbook. I point that out because it’s such an easy exercise that there’s really no excuse for the school not walking the kids through this. You certainly can’t raise the time-honored question “aw c’mon, when am I ever gonna need to do that?”

And, using a binary editor to hack a file. Because whether you grow up into the exciting field of software engineering or network engineering or computer forensics…or not…computer users, I maintain, really should understand what computer files are and how they’re put together. Just like, before you loan your keys to the teenager, they really should have gone through the exercise of pulling the jack out of the trunk and changing the tire, just to show they can do it and to demonstrate a working knowledge of how the parts fit together.

When people talk about having skills to compete in the 21st century, that’s what it means to me. Admittedly, I’m bringing a strong personal bias in to that, but it’s an idea that has some merit. You learn how to work something by understanding how it’s put together, or by understanding how it behaves. If you work with a thing by understanding only how it behaves, you’re working from a script, and that is not competing. That’s “when I press this button, that light is supposed to come on, and…whoops…why won’t it come on??”

And I humbly submit that if education involves something besides enabling self-sufficiency in a little dilemma like that, then a question needs to be opened up as to what kind of education that is, and how it’s supposed to help anyone.

Men See Women in Bikinis as Objects

Friday, February 20th, 2009

science says. Just tell me my taxpayer dollars didn’t pay for it, pretty please? Lord knows they’re paying for everything else.

It may seem obvious that men perceive women in sexy bathing suits as objects, but now there’s science to back it up.

New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis.

The research was presented this week by Captain Renault, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the…

Hah hah! Did I just type “Captain Renault” in there? Oh, dear me, naughty, naughty fingers. I slap my own hands. Let’s get back to business…

I See Her As An ObjectThe research was presented this week by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“This is just the first study which was focused on the idea that men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses,” she told CNN.

Although consistent with conventional wisdom, the way that men may depersonalize sexual images of women is not entirely something they control. In fact, it’s a byproduct of human evolution, experts say. The first male humans had an incentive to seek fertile women as the means of spreading their genes.
:
Men also remember these women’s bodies better than those of fully-clothed women, Fiske said. Each image was shown for only a fraction of a second.

This study looked specifically at men, and did not test women’s responses to similar images.

Wow, that Obama sure did deliver up some “change.” Any week now, we’ll be seeing that phony egghead study that says “Study: Men actually appreciate women.” We’re dogs, I tell ya.

You do realize what’s going on here? If I were to hop in a time machine and travel back by — let us say — three or four years, and say “Hey guess what, in 2009 it’s treated as a scientific discovery that men see screwing women as a thing to do, like a household chore, albeit an exciting and pleasant one.” It would be looked upon as very poor, very low-grade, very unfunny, sarcastic humor. Nobody would take it seriously. They’d lock me up in a loony bin.

And yet, here we are.

If it wasn’t for the swindle-us bill passing, I’d say we need a complete overhaul and audit of all scientfikal studies being done, anywhere, inside government as well as outside.

But now, everyone’s paying for everything — save for those who don’t pay taxes. So now I don’t see the point. But good heavens. Where do they get these asexual, passionless, sex-deprived scientists? “Susan Fiske” isn’t even a hyphenated name. Must be a typo or omission of some kind.

I read these stories, and I feel like I must’ve been frozen and thawed out again. Geez people, it’s called testosterone. It’s not a relic from a bygone era…well, not yet anyway…and it’s the source of every single good thing you have, & then some. Am I really Buck Rogers here? Who’s been sawing logs for a century or two here, me or everyone-else?

Past studies have also shown that when men view images of highly sexualized women, and then interact with a woman in a separate setting, they are more likely to have sexual words on their minds, she said…Taken together, the research suggests that viewing certain images is not appropriate in the workplace, Fiske said.

My God! You realize what this is? This is one step removed from saying…Study: Men enjoy looking at women in bikinis. It’s one step removed from saying “Study: Castrate men before allowing them to work in an office with women.” It, in contravention to useful science, belabors the obvious. In contravention to useful science, it views people as two-dimensional creatures, unable to see or incapable of seeing each other as both beautiful and talented. It unscientifically reads these two perceptions as mutually exclusive, when there is no substantiation for such an axiom. In that sense, it is bone-crushingly stupid. It’s also European — and I don’t mean that as a compliment. I’m talking about synapses in your noggin, by being jumped, becoming everybody else’s concern. Everyone’s business is everybody else’s business.

What do you need to do, to get some policies enacted on this…and then enforce them to the extent needed? The mind boggles. Why, I, a straight male, could be interviewing female job candidates, or giving annual reviews to women who work for me. You would have to go through a complete history of all my ex-girlfriends to see if any of them resemble the female professionals I’m appraising. You’d have to do that before you could allow me into the room with them…wouldn’t you? I mean, I don’t think I’m that unusual here, but if you were to go through a history of all the women I considered girlfriends, gee I hate to admit this, but I’ve seen all of them buck-ass naked. And naked is almost as scandalous as wearing a bikini, of course. So who knows what those unsuspecting females could be unleashing in that degenerate male noggin of mine?

No way could you depend on grown-ups to just…y’know…act like professionals or anything.

And here’s some full disclosure for you: In my case, you’d better not stop at girlfriends. You’d have to sound the alarm bells anytime I had to interact with a female subordinate who resembled any of my movie-actress fantasies. You might as well.

I suggest you start off with Natalie Wood. Yummy, yummy, Natalie Wood. Mmmmm…

Mr. Right Goes Nuts

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Conservathink opened up the floor to some discussion about who might be the “Douchebag of the Year” for 2008. And Mr. Right commenter #2 (and 3), went stark-raving ballistic.

Dude makes some great points.

The entire MSM for the year-long mass Obama-orgasm masquerading as election coverage. Special mention to all on MSNBC, Keith Olbermoron and Chrissy “Tingle” Matthews in particular! I mean, come on, are they even bothering to pretend anymore???

Andy “Trig Troofer” Sullivan

Rod Blagojevich (Being from Illinois, I am just so, so proud!)

Al Franken, MN Secy of State Mark Ritchie, and anyone even remotely involved in the latest in a long, long line of statistically impossible “recounts” that is, as always, miraculously turning another Dem loss into a Dem win. Gee, what a shock!

Al Gore & the anthropocentric global warming farce brigade. Where’s my global warming, Al? The North Pole will melt in 5 years??? Really? Is that a promise? What drugs is this guy on? Seriously!

Former Ohio Dept of Jobs and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley and everyone else involved in illegally digging for dirt on Joe the Plumber! Welcome to the Soviet Union, Comrade! Guess speaking truth to power is only for liberals attacking Republicans, huh?

Rev. Jeremiah “God D–n, America” Wright

Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn

ACORN

Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and all the Dems who helped Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae destroy the economy by giving loans to people who could never afford to repay them in the name of “fairness” and “social justice,” with a lot of kickbacks and campaign contributions for them and their friends thrown in as an entirely unrelated side-bonus. Oh, and throw in all the fat-cat CEO’s and profiteers that tried to cash in and then fiddled while Wall Street burned.

The big 3 US auto-makers and the a**holes at the UAW. Bail this out, you sub-morons!

Bush and Paulson can get in on this, too, for the trillion dollar kick in the groin of the American taxpayer! Up yours!!!

He promised more as he thought of them, and did indeed come back to deliver a second batch. I thought this first helping was far superior, though.

These nominations associated with the bailout, I’d submit under one big umbrella that I might call “Those Who Purport To Save Capitalism By Destroying It.” Regretfully, under that umbrella, I’d have to include all of us. For any occasion upon which –

a. Our politicians water down capitalism by mixing it in with marxist social programs;
b. Because of the incompatible mixing, people get shafted when they otherwise wouldn’t;
c. Some hotshot left-winger makes a speech or produces a movie, saying capitalism is to blame;
d. We fall for it.

Happens way too often.

The elections are too important to us, and we spend too much time thinking about them. I have this feeling of self-revulsion every time I babble away about them here, at The Blog That Nobody Reads — although, in my defense, by the time things have progressed to that point I have very little choice in the matter. I mean really. What should I pay attention to, a bunch of assholes flushing $700 billion of my money down a toilet? Or a fifty-cent ATM fee? Or that Simon Cowell is a jackass and Paula Abdul can’t string together a coherent sentence? Really, where should my fixation be, logically?

I see 2008 was, in many respects, a stronger reverberation of 2004. Back then we had a liberal democrat with no talent and nothing to offer, campaign to become our next President solely on the qualification that he was not George Bush. That didn’t work out, so in our surreal, illogical universe, the next time at-bat the liberal democrats tried exactly the same strategy. In fact, they discussed even less the seemingly staple topic of what their contender would be able to do once elected, and what he indeed would do. And this time it worked great. Possibly because those liberal democrats who constantly insist state matters should not be intermixed with religion, started offering up the idea that their candidate was some kind of Holy Messiah, incarnated upon this earthly plane to deliver us from evil.

Also in 2004, a bunch of wandering minstrels sought to convince us the earth was heating up to the point where it would no longer be able to support life, and it was all our fault. In 2008 they kept at it, and this time really made a bunch of fools out of themselves as things got downright chilly, from Martin Luther King Day all the way through Christmas. Finally, exasperated, they explained to us that when things get cooler, that’s scientific evidence that things are getting warmer. Those among us who cast votes based on this critical issue, decided, somehow, that that was pretty convincing.

Sarah Palin. Where to begin. All the vile bile that comes her way, if you were just visiting Earth right about now, you’d swear on your alien grandmother’s grave that she must have won.

In all the real life on this little rock in space I’ve been privileged to see over the years — I have never, ever, not once, seen a bunch of sore winners, win so resoundingly at something, and remain so sore. If I could somehow measure it, i think they’ve managed to match up with their December 2000 angst, anger and peevishness; I really do. It is truly a “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” situation. It’s up to those Republican Whos Down In Whoville, to teach that liberal Grinch how to be pleased with something on Christmas morning, even though he just got done stealing all their stuff.

Science is Settled: Power Will Not Corrupt The Chosen One

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Whew, that’s a relief.

People need not worry about power corrupting US president-elect Barack Obama, an American research has suggested.

“Our research suggests that people may not need to worry too much about power corrupting Obama,” according to Joe Magee of New York University, who collaborated in the study.

“His newfound power might enable the change he desires rather than that power changing him instead. This is contrary to what most people think: that the longer he works in Washington the more he will be influenced by the same old ways of doing things,” Magee added.

This is specially relevant with the January inauguration of the president-elect and how he responds to the advice, influence, and criticism of his advisors, cabinet members, media, and other political leaders as he takes office.

“Although power is often perceived as the capacity to influence others, this research examines whether power protects people from influence,” said Adam Galinsky, professor at Kellogg School, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who led the study.

Science. Is there anything it cannot do?

Psychotropic Drugs

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

File this under Must See. Thanx to commenter Shannon in AZ.

D’JEver Notice? XVI

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

The more potential maladies that are subjected to preventive medicine in one generation, the greater the number of preventive measures will be proposed in the next. And they always, always, always involve money.

It’s the one sales pitch, to which we fail to show any constructive skepticism whatsoever.

An annual physical exam and twice-yearly dental checkup are supposed to protect your health. Now there’s a move for married Americans to do the same to protect the health of their unions.

So far, 171 couples in the Worcester, Mass., area are getting a Marriage Checkup, part of a clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health.

With questionnaires and two in-person sessions, the free program provides personalized feedback to keep relationships on track and circumvent trouble, says psychologist James Cordova, who runs the project at Clark University, where he’s an associate professor.

“This is a health issue,” he told a session of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies on Saturday. Some 3,000 are attending the three-day meeting, which ends Sunday.

“Your marital health doesn’t catch your attention until it really starts to hurt,” he says. “By that point, sometimes irreversible damage has been done.”

Doctor Freeberg here, who has spent, uh (grabs calculator) slightly less than four percent of his visit on this big blue marble in a state of wedlock, and is not in such a state now…nevertheless…has the perfect prescription for coupling-up and staying coupled-up. And periodic check-ups, wonderful as they may sound, don’t have an awful lot to do with it.

It’s so easy. So simple. So perfectly in harmony with exactly what we do, when we don’t want to die from cancer.

And it seems nobody ever thinks of it. Until it’s too late.

Stay Away From Selfish Bitches.

If she recounts conversations back to you, and the conversations are all “and then I said…and then I said…and then I said…” — run like hell.

If she ever uses the word “oppressive” except when quoting someone else, run like hell.

If she treats the waitress like a lower form of human being, run like hell.

If she keeps up her house or apartment, and the clothes stored in it, the way a guy does the same, you run like hell.

If she turns up her nose when you donate to groups that help veterans, run like hell.

If she presses too hard for the subject to be changed when you talk about whether you want a Glock or a Sig Sauer, or debate the virtues of 5.56 NATO versus 7.65 Browning…run like hell.

And, of course, it goes without saying, if she refuses to “let” you do something — like, for example, go to Hooters — run like hell. In fact, run like hell if she doesn’t drag you there. With a big smile on her face.

Because women who don’t like to have fun, are walking wastes of energy and time. They are black holes for your life force. Life is not a dress rehearsal, boys. So you put some attention into who you’re choosing. Once you get a good one, you hang on to her and let her know how happy you are that the two of you met. Find ways. All the other good things will follow.

The marriage checkup is not therapy but an information service, Cordova told the nonprofit membership group of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers.

“We’re able to help them identify exactly what it is they’re doing that is keeping them healthy and make sure that whatever their areas of concern are aren’t potentially problematic in the long run,” he says.

Cordova says an estimated 12 million couples — about 20% of all marriages — experience some significant level of distress. And he says about 5% of couples who marry are already distressed. Marriages deteriorate in stages, and he says a marital checkup can catch small issues before they grow big.

Marriages do not deteriotate in stages. I know it looks like that the first year or two after things “didn’t work out”…it always does. With some more time, one sees the problem really was that all those years ago, at the time the twosome became one, both halves were somewhat ignorant about what exactly it was they wanted out of life. Separation became an inevitability once, tragically united, they began to figure it out.

The thing is, though, once the intelligent divorcee realizes this, the divorce itself is a somewhat distant memory.

By then, his or her friends are done inquiring about the possible cause of the divorce. They’re too busy asking other more recent divorcee friends, still laboring under the delusion of this “grew apart in stages” fallacy, why they think they got divorced. So this epiphany is a relatively quiet one, and the urban myth of “stages” endures.

Poppycock.

Just don’t marry bitches. Marry (or couple up with) sweethearts, and treat ‘em like that’s what they are. Spend your time around someone who wants you to be happy, and you will be.

Humans. Boy, we are really good at making simple things complicated. Y’know?

Finally, Nerds Have Sex Appeal

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

No, wait, don’t get all excited; we’re not there quite yet.

It’s sexy to be a nerd when you’re a girl:

These girl geeks aren’t social misfits; their identities don’t hinge on outsider status. They may love all things sci-tech, but first and foremost they are girls—and they’ve made that part of their appeal. They’ve modeled themselves after icons such as Tina Fey, whose character on “30 Rock” is a “Star Wars”-loving, tech-obsessed, glasses-wearing geek, but who’s garnered mainstream appeal and a few fashion-magazine covers. Or on actress Danica McKellar, who coauthored a math theorem, wrote a book for girls called “Math Doesn’t Suck” and posed in a bikini for Stuff magazine. Or even Ellen Spertus, a Mills College professor and research scientist at Google—and the 2001 winner of the Silicon Valley “Sexiest Geek Alive” pageant. They tune in to shows like “GeekBrief.TV,” a daily Web series hosted by 26-year-old Cali Lewis, and meet friends at Girl Geek Dinners, the first of which drew more than 600 women. However they choose to geek out, they consciously tweak the two chief archetypes of geeks: that they’re unattractive outcasts, and that they’re male. “For a long time, there’s been this stereotype that either you’re ugly and smart or cute and not suited for careers in math, science or engineering,” says Annalee Newitz, the co-editor of “She’s Such a Geek!”, a 2006 anthology of women writing about math, tech and science. “One of the big differences between Generation X geeks and girls in their teens now is really just an attitude—an indication that they’re much more comfortable.”

Huh. Well, that’s still a good thing, I suppose. Maybe we’ve finally arrived at the point where boys and girls are no longer being bossed around by stuffy conventional protocol or by bitter angry feminists, and everybody just does what comes most naturally. And so we have some geek girls who take the time to be feminine after they’re done geeking-out.

And everybody’s stopped whining; hey, I can completely get behind that. Oopsie, no, we’re not quite there yet:

Yet there is still a dichotomy between the culture and the workplace. Forty years ago women made up just 3 percent of science and engineering jobs; now they make up about 20 percent. That sounds promising, until you consider that women earn 56 percent of the degrees in those fields. A recent Center for Work-Life Policy study found that 52 percent of women leave those jobs, with 63 percent saying they experienced workplace harassment and more than half believing they needed to “act like a man” in order to succeed.

Okay, so the whining hasn’t stopped. But at least society has begun to accept coolness and tech-wizardry in the same person, so long as that person is female.

Actually, that’s not new either now that I noodle it out a bit further. Action movies have had this going on for a very long time now. “Cracking a 256-bit twofish encryption code in your head” — hah — you can do that right after racing a motorcycle through a burning warehouse and then karate-chopping 50 bad guys in a row…and looking hot…if you’re a girl.

That’s quite alright, and has been for some time.

The male action hero hasn’t been allowed to do this, and to the best I can discern, is still not allowed to do this. If there’s a shoot-out and he’s busy hiding behind a car door, “covering” somebody by laying down about 70 shots from his six-shot .44 Ruger, and there’s a computer that has to be reprogrammed or unlocked or defeated in some way…it’s always been in the contract. He has to yell out “Do you think you can disarm that thing?” to his plucky sidekick. Said plucky sidekick being a gorgeous babe or an ugly whelp. There is, just to cite one example of the classic trend, Bond, James Bond. He can fight and drive fast cars and shoot guns and is supposed to be sexy as all get-out, but he doesn’t understand the computers, he needs his co-star to figure them out. I guess she was a Nerd 2.0 Girl before they were cool. The bad guy is a secret agent who can do everything Bond can do — he can’t figure the computers out, either. When a satellite has to be locked on to a city, he needs to rely on his dorky wimpy male sidekick who can’t shoot guns, flinches from a firefight, and seems to be working pretty hard to avoid looking the least bit sexy.

That’s a very old tradition, and a male-only tradition. We’ve lately done some work nibbling around the edges of it. Indiana Jones, I see, knows a gazillion languages, which is the kind of proficiency I might expect from a college professor who’s been globetrotting in search of archeological relics for eighty years. Hugh Jackman was allowed to break encryption keys in his head and still be a sexy dude — so long as the fighting was left to others.

So now, our expectation could be summed up as: Beating up bad guys; looking sexy; doing geek stuff. Girls, you can have all three; guys, pick any two.

That’s rather typical of our mindset, both in the cinema and outside of it, and it’s endured across generations: Girls can have all, dudes must choose. And I don’t see how the females have ever been shoehorned into anything, or out of anything, by it. Ever. On the school playground, I know girls can be meaner to each other than boys ever can be, but I don’t recall any anecdotal information about girls having been physically abused for their geekiness, whereas on the male side of the line this is a time-honored ritual.

So I guess what the article is trying to tell me, is that there is a new fashion trend rising up here in which it has become the hot new thing to mentor an up-and-coming female nerd. Well, since the Y2K computer bug, technology seems to have gone into a deep slumber, nobody seems to have gathered a benefit from that, so any nerd-mentoring that takes place is a good thing in my book.

But let’s not call this a groundbreaking trend. If 56 percent of engineering degrees are being earned by the ladies, that would indicate they’re already being mentored plenty well enough thankyew, so this isn’t quite so much blazing a new trail as climbing onto a bandwagon…we have a tendency to forget those are two different things. But whatever. We desperately need a technical renaissance, and if tech-skills are looking sexy, even if it’s only in the girls — and we’re pretending this is something new when it’s anything-but — this could be what a technical renaissance looks like, when it’s just getting started.

But you know what we need more than anything? We need what we had about twenty-five to forty-five years ago: Technology that exists solely for the purpose of making other technology possible. From where I’m sitting, and from what I know, the last great innovation in that department would have been…SSL 3.0. By itself, it doesn’t do anything impressive and is nearly impossible to explain to the “layman,” but it made truly secure e-commerce something worth developing, and had an influential impact on the financial world. A positive one, for a little while.

So passages like this have a tendency to temper my optimism:

In 2007, girls won both the team and the individual categories of the Siemens Competition for high-school students in math, science and technology for the first time in the competition’s history. A recent Pew Internet & American Life project found that among users 12 to 17, girls dominate the blogosphere and social networking sites; they’re also beating boys when it comes to creating Web sites of their own. Even women gamers far outnumber men ages 25 to 34, according to a 2006 study by the Consumer Electronics Association.

Winning a competition is something you do for the attention. Actually, it is not so much a measurable achievement, as reaching an opinionated achievement…an achievement in the opinion of one or several observers. Writing for a blog or participating in a social networking site, is the essence of showing off. Creating a web site is a process of presentation. And gaming is just goofing off. If girls are outnumbering boys in gaming, that’s just another example of them borrowing our worst habits.

So that concerns me a little. This “laying of railroad track” brand of technology, which we badly need now, is not being served by any new generation of hot stylish geek, regardless of which gender is involved. And it is highly unlikely to be served by anyone who’s entered the tech field out of any personal passions that have anything to do with getting attention. What we really need to have mentored, are some Dr. Frankensteins — folks, male or female, who lock themselves up in laboratories that are neat-or-messy, maybe equal parts of both, and just grind away at stuff without any concern for the kudos they get when they show it to someone. That has nothing to do with blogging, nothing to do with building web pages, and nothing to do with gaming; those are decidedly closed-end technologies.

But there will be more substantial cause for hope, in my lifetime, I’m sure. Technology has always moved in a feast-and-famine cycle. This is a famine, there’s no mistaking that. One of these decades, Microsoft will release an operating system that isn’t a bloated albatross…or someone else will. Or we’ll get some other home appliance that’s open-ended, maybe something some guy built in his garage, and go through the technological boom of the eighties and early nineties all over again. Maybe one of those geek girls will pull that off — become sort of a Joan of Ark of technical wizardry. If that’s the future, I’m pullin’ for her, and it can’t happen soon enough.

You know what will really make that all the more likely? Is if we separate geekdom from fashion. That way, we’ll be ready to accept whatever is ready to be offered. These preconceived notions about who’s going to build the next great widget — and, out of necessity, who will not — are marginally dangerous, and not very helpful to anyone. They impress me as a process of exchanging one crude stereotype for another one.

If Women Ran The World

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Kate says,

If women ran the world, we would not have the jet engine. It has nothing to do with intellect. It just isn’t in our nature to want one.

And as of this writing, there are 114 comments under it. Hmmm.

I have to take some issue with this. Nowadays, it is outside of the nature of a lot of men to want a jet engine. Or to confront historically masculine challenges of a far less ambitious nature…like, dropping a loogie on a leaf floating in the creek from a really high bridge, just to see if you can hit it.

In my time, the little girls had no idea what the fuss was about. Now nobody does. Call it inferential thinking…versus procedural. As time goes on, more and more of us want to engage in procedural thinking, and they want everyone else to think that way too. Step one, step two, step three — and forget all about the if-this-then-that stuff.

Good thing we have the jet engine already. Because we sure as hell wouldn’t be getting one from here on out, if we didn’t already have it.

Update 4/30/08: The linked article by Christina Hoff Sommers makes it clear, to me anyway, that the underlying trouble and confusion comes from a conflict between the inferentialists and the proceduralists. The subject under discussion is the Title IX “Hammer” getting ready to bang away at our nation’s science and technology departments. Science is inferential thinking wrapped up in procedural thinking — you do things a certain way, but at some point you use your individual intellect to figure out something that would otherwise elude you. If you don’t get that far in your efforts, they’re kind of pointless.

Regulating such a discipline into oblivion, on the other hand, is procedural thinking because it involves blowing the whistle on things that aren’t being done a certain way. As is the case with all step-1 step-2 step-3 things in life, there is no way to do it with excellence.

That’s why people who engage in procedural activities, see the world in pass-fail terms. And they want everyone else to engage in procedural activities too. They end up stamping out inferential thinking, and all the gifts we enjoy thanks to someone who once upon a time pursued it — without even realizing that is what they’re doing.

At a recent House hearing on “Women in Academic Science and Engineering” Congressman Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington State, asked a room full of activist women how best to bring American scientists into line: “What kind of hammer should we use?” The weapon of choice is the well-known federal anti-discrimination law “Title IX,” which prohibits sex discrimination in “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX has never been rigorously applied to academic science. That is now about to change. In the past few months both the Department of Education and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have begun looking at candidates for Title IX-enforcement positions.
:
Although Title IX has contributed to the progress of women’s athletics, it has done serious harm to men’s sports. Over the years, judges, federal officials, and college administrators have interpreted it to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60 percent female, then 60 percent of the athletes should be female — even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college. But many athletic directors have been unable to attract the same proportions of women as men. So, to avoid government harassment, loss of funding, and lawsuits, educational institutions have eliminated men’s teams — in effect, reducing men’s participation to the level of women’s interest. That kind of regulatory calibration — call it reductio ad feminem — would wreak havoc in fields that drive the economy such as math, physics, and computer science.

Don’t blame the gals, I say. Blame the procedural thinkers, the step-1 step-2 step-3 people; some of them are female, probably most are, but not all of them are. The inferential thinkers don’t care how others think, but the procedural thinkers want everything done their way.

And…a society that does everything by steps & numbers, doesn’t build anything. It can’t. That’s just about where we’re headed now.

Out of the Diversity Market?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Well, this is interesting on a number of levels.

Elite colleges have been undermining their own efforts to diversify by giving much more weight to high SAT scores than they did before, according to an analysis of College Board data presented this morning at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.

Over the past two or three decades, the share of freshman-class seats that elite colleges award to students with high SAT scores has risen significantly—and risen more quickly than the number of high scores, according to an analysis by Catherine L. Horn, an assistant professor of educational leadership and cultural studies at the University of Houston, and John T. Yun, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

What’s interesting is, to me, the way the whole college-admission thing was explained when I was a kid, I was told this is how it’s supposed to work. You’re smart as a whip but your scores are low on this-test or that-test, nobody’s going to care how smart you are.

And in life I’ve found as you get further away from the actual work that needs to get done, this becomes more and more true. Officials who are in charge of promotions, hiring and admission, being insulated from the actual work that needs to get done, but needing some kind of data on which to base their decisions, will start to rely on one or several arbitrary testing mechanisms.

The researchers say that, by focusing so heavily on high scorers, the elite colleges they examined are ignoring promising minority students with lesser scores, increasing the competition for high-scoring minority students, and potentially “simply ‘pricing’ themselves out of the ‘market’ for a more diverse learning environment.” Especially among the most prestigious of the 30 institutions, it is hard to believe that putting less emphasis on high SAT scores would cause the institutions’ quality to suffer. [emphasis mine]

Well, well, well. Talk about a darker skin color, and suddenly the most entrenched eggheads start to sound exactly like me. All of a sudden…we need to explore ways in which a single score from a single test, even a prestigious and well-known test like the SAT, might not be telling the whole story.

Whatsamatta? Why can’t we just go off the test score and very little, or nothing, else? Isn’t “promising students with lesser scores” an oxymoron? After all, if a student is promising, the onus is on him or her to bring up that test score right?

Once again it looks like I’m in trouble with the prevailing viewpoint. Back when it said skills/promise/aptitude were all synonymous with the value of a test score, that did seem overly simplistic but I could see the logic in it. Then it said no, there might be more to the story than that. There was logic in that too. Nowadays, the answer is all-of-one or all-of-another, but before we figure out which one it is we need to know the skin color under discussion.

And I’m sorry, but I can’t see any logic to that whatsoever.

And isn’t it interesting…if there was an explanation behind the phrase “hard to believe that putting less emphasis on high SAT scores would cause the institutions’ quality to suffer,” the entire article would have been justified. Since there isn’t one, all we have here is a bunch of colleges making decisions based on test scores, which is what they are conventionally supposed to be doing — and an egghead researcher who doesn’t think that’s the way it should be done. And can’t, or won’t, say why.

He and I could be kindred spirits, if the soft bigotry was dropped. Tests, even the Scholastic Aptitude Test, are exercises in following instructions. When you’re talking natural aptitudes, the aptitude of following instructions is oppositional to the aptitude of figuring out what needs doing & doing it. So even without the skin-color bean-counting, we already have a big problem there — leaders of tomorrow are filtered in to the higher educational system based on their abilities to follow instructions, not to actually lead.

Now we’re getting all hip to the idea that the process may be broken and in need of a fix or two…but only within the context of “minority” concerns. And on that subject we’re going to talk about nothing but minority concerns. Aptitudes that may be useful in roles of responsibility, that are beyond the scope of the testing mechanism, are things that I’m injecting into the subject myself in my own comments. The article itself doesn’t make any mention of them.

So the problem here is that we may be going through the motions of embracing excellence when we’re actually embracing mediocrity. We may be…it seems the researchers don’t want to commit on that one way or the other. For example, I can’t possibly be the only one who thinks the statement “‘pricing’ themselves out of the ‘market’ for a more diverse learning environment” is bizarre in the extreme. There, again, the article approaches an explanation of what is meant by this, but doesn’t actually pursue such an explanation. What exactly is a “more diverse learning environment”? Is it an exercise in excellence, or mediocrity?

Three decades after Bakke, with that phrase being tossed around with such a frequency and to such an extent that it has become tired and worn, I’ve never heard anyone in any position of authority say which one it is. Is “diversity” the pursuit of a zenith, or of an average?

And as a general rule, when persons in positions of authority refuse to explain things, bad things are about to happen.

On Dogs in Purses

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Gerard is interested, again, in our snarking about technology, post-Y2K. The issue under discussion is/was the snotty atheist movement.

How come atheism waited until the twenty-first century to really bask in the limelight? Wouldn’t it be more fitting if it came to popularity half a century ago, when we were launching satellites and smashing atoms? This is the age of fifty gazillion wonderful new inventions, all of which are dedicated to finding new ways to play personal music collections and carry dogs around in purses.

Dog in PurseAnd this is the era in which the atheist’s view of the cosmos, is most popularly thought to be the correct one. If I were an atheist, that would be sufficient to make me seriously question my atheism. I’m glad I’m not one.

No moonshots. We may land on Mars someday, but if we do it will be like a thief in the night. Nobody cares.

Our kids all want to be rap stars and basketball players when they grow up, which would be alright on some level if they had to overcome some approach-approach conflict to get there, but one gathers the impression they lit upon this dream just because nature abhors a vacuum. Rare is the child nowadays who has ever fiddled with a chemistry set or used a calculator just for fun.

Technology is useful when it gives us something we can leave under the Winter Solstice Tree for each other. Technology is wonderful when it’s about ME. When it plays MY music…when it displays MY photographs. By doing things that are, conceptually, not new. Years and years ago, we figured out how to pass a digital file through a solid-state device and get stereo music out of it — and if by noon tomorrow ten exciting inventions are unveiled, you know at least nine of them will have something to do with performing this old task in some fancy new way. It isn’t real innovation.

The tenth will have something to do with dogs and purses.

I thought I would provide a link to how the dog-in-the-purse became a metaphor around here for stale technology. It is a technology-related thing, after all, because for the most part a dog-in-a-purse is not a natural component. It is artificial. It is an expenditure of our anemic twenty-first century “atheism is cool” technological wherewithal. One of the very few.

Though the teacup toy poodle is easily less than 5 pounds, some breeders specifically select their smallest dogs for breeding to bring down the size and weight of further generations.

While a purse dog may look cute, there are some inherent problems with breeding a dog to be small, specifically as a fashion accessory. First, bladder control is a major issue for most of these dogs, as they have tiny bladders that won’t hold liquid for long. Dog owners, this writer among them, often wonder how many times purses have to be replaced if you’re carrying a tiny dog around for long parties or events and forget to give it ample opportunities to urinate.

Second, as breeds get smaller, reproduction gets more challenging. Tiny dogs usually have to have cesarean section deliveries of young, which is more risky for both the mother and her pups. Further, there are unfortunately many unscrupulous breeders who attempt to breed very small puppies and do so in unsafe or unhealthy ways. Puppy mills frequently produce purse dogs, and allow larger dogs that don’t fit size requirements to languish without proper care.

Did you catch that? The artificially bred dogs have problems with pissing and crapping. I’m sure if you’re like me, the first time you saw a purse dog the first thought in your head was “I wonder how the dog tells his mistress it’s time to be walked?” And the answer is — he doesn’t! The dogs are soiling expensive purses left-and-right. Not cheap purses, either. Designer purses. Suede purses. Purses selected specifically according to the criteria that they cost a lot.

The dog-in-the-purse is a wonderful concoction of disparate components, each one tossed into the stewpot that becomes a dog-in-a-purse because that component is impractical. The objective, therefore, is impracticality — and no small measure of what might be called animal cruelty.

It is, in a darkly upside-down way, an innovation. An exercise in seeing how many impractical things can be offered in a single new trend.

It is the very picture of what suits our fancy in the twenty-first century.

Because we’re BORED.

I believe one suspect might be Y2K. I remember, in about ’97 or ’98 or so, the trend started that if you worked in Information Technology you were probably engaged in a project or two that had something to do with Y2K upgrades. By the third quarter of ’98, everybody was neck-deep in it. To bring in something genuinely new, was an effort that would’ve run into a stiff headwind.

Well, my theory is that Y2K killed technology. One would presume after the crisis had passed, we’d go back to finding creative, innovative, powerful new ways to do things, previously undreamed-of. Like we did pre-1997.

Well, one would have presumed wrong. When one has been creating and there is suddenly a need to preserve, the urge to preserve is a powerful one. When one has been preserving and there arises a need to go back to creating, it turns out that urge is not quite so strong. We leaped out of the Age of Brahma into the Age of Vishnu…and in the Age of Vishnu, we remain. Technology, to the technology professional as well as to the man in the street, is something that works when it — simply works. It’s like a pencil. The damn thing writes or else it doesn’t. We really don’t care how to make a better one.

Another culprit I have in mind, is the 640k memory limit. We did an awfully sloppy job of getting past that one. It was an issue when the IBM PC first came out, and fifteen years later it was still an issue. It worked out well for Microsoft, which released a whole string of Windows versions that people had practical reasons to buy.

The guy who just wanted to buy a nice gadget for his sweetie to put under the Holiday Tree, would have to contend in some way with the 640k memory barrier because some programs would run on some operating systems, and others would not. Now, we don’t have to worry about this. Supposedly, that’s an improvement. But is it really?

In the 1990′s, we had Windows 95. What an amazing thing it was. I don’t mean to say you’d go back to it now, but think about when it first came out. Contrast it against what came before. Of course, everybody cared…we had to…and once we had it, the sky was the limit as far as what we could put on it.

Now, we have Vista

Microsoft’s biggest competitor is itself. In a market where one product dominates, older versions compete with newer ones. The problem exacerbates as a product improves and more people use it. Windows XP reached the “good enough” threshold, in terms of features and usability and market saturation. To displace XP, Vista needed to be a whole lot better, not just the same or even a little better. But Vista isn’t the “WOW” operating system Microsoft advertised. Vista is a very good operating system and arguably better than XP. But Vista isn’t a great operating system and, therefore, a whole lot better than Windows XP.

Which is a pretty big problem, because the time window of dominance by Vista’s successor, XP, was already much longer than what would have been considered normal pre-Y2K. Windows XP is a Fourth Quarter ’01 product; presuming it can retain a dominant toehold because its successor has done a lackluster job making a name for itself, we’re now into the eighth year of essentially one operating system.

The dominant Windows operating system has been the trunk of the technology tree. If there’s rot in the core of this trunk, the branches aren’t going to do too well either.

And so, in 2008 we don’t look to scientists…engineers…programmers…for an awful lot. Nothing at all, really. If you have a home computer at all, you probably have a pretty good idea on what you want it to do and you’re not like some guy in the 1980′s running in to Egghead Software to find some new tricks you can teach it. If you do have a new program in mind and the computer won’t run it, you probably just need — more RAM. The day you finally need to trade up your PC, it’s probably a decision driven by hardware and not by software. The old unit wouldn’t support a SATA hard drive…or some such.

As everyday folks, we’re just not that connected on what goes on in the guts of technology. Not like we were. Technology cannot gratify us anymore…it cannot spark our imaginations…all it can do is disappoint us, by not doing exactly what we had in mind.

The Age of Brahma is over. It is the Age of Vishnu. We have no interest in creating, we only want to preserve.

That’s why your kids want to be rap stars instead of doctors.

Boom chicka boom.

Another Open-Minded Propeller-Beanie Egghead…

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Domestic Trouble…showing his open-mindedness to ideas, cultures, and value systems alien to his own…

In “Guys and Guns Amok: Domestic Terrorism and School Shootings from the Oklahoma City Bombing to the Virginia Tech Massacre” (Paradigm, 2008), UCLA professor of education and cultural critic Douglas Kellner argues that school shootings and other acts of mass violence embody a crisis of out-of-control gun culture and male rage, heightened by a glorification of hypermasculinity and violence in the media.

“The school shooters and domestic terrorists examined in this book all exhibit male rage, attempt to resolve a crisis of masculinity through violent behavior, demonstrate a fetish for guns or weapons, and represent, in general, a situation of guys and guns amok,” Kellner says.

So funny the way we do this. You look into the biographies of these young men who do this, you find the same stuff any cop is used to seeing after a career spent investigating slightly less horrible crimes: Not only an abundance of masculine energy, but a shortage of places to put it — with the second of those factors being key to the performance of whatever misdemeanors or atrocities are under discussion.

Masculinity itself is one of those things that is always to blame. Anyone my age & up, with a reasonable adequate memory should be able to recall the events for they are crystal clear: We made masculinity into a ugly thing to be assaulted, and then crime spiked. When masculinity was an okay thing, when you could put on a television show or movie where daddy dispensed sage wise advice and “always knew best” as they say, and nobody deplored what you were doing — violence and willful property damage were rare things, compared to now.

It’s so interesting. I thought you had to be smart to be a perfesser of edyoomakayshun. Or at least, broad minded enough to consider ideas that aren’t quite initially suiting your fancy. The older I get and the more things I see, the more I have to doubt this. Our edyoomakayted folks with all them fancy letters after their names and all, seem to share a handy talent for shoehorning the events around them into their pre-selected opinions, rather than the other way around. The hostility toward masculinity itself — it’s simply unwarranted. After all, we didn’t declare any kind of parallel jihad on femininity when Andrea Yates drowned her kids in the bathtub.

Credit goes to Miss Cellania for finding the cartoon.

Best Sentence XXI

Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Contrary to conventional medical wisdom, the cause of autism is not primarily genetic, but is a complex combination of genetics and environment. Genetics, so to speak, load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies. The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders, Kenneth Bock, M.D., and Cameron Stauth, ISBN: 978-0-345-49450-4, p. 17.

I think that right there is one of two big ways we are screwing up with our children, particularly our male children. We think it has to be all-environmental or all-natural. All-nature or all-nurture. One or t’other. How these little idiosyncrasies can be any kind of blend, is something we adults tend to forget. Easily. Even the intellectual giants among us.

The other mistake we’re making, is in assessing what is “busted” in the first place. Things that used to be synonymous with plain ol’ masculinity are — nowadays — thought to be indicative of some kind of disease. Not good…not good at all.

Especially when, all the stuff that we use nowadays that supposedly makes life worth living, we have thanks to the contributions of people like Nikolai Tesla and Thomas Edison and Isaac Newton. People who would surely have been diagnosed with this-thing or that-thing, if they were children nowadays in our ultra-pure and ultra-pasteurized world…

Sweden: Men Are Bad

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Let’s work up this headline the way they’d do it on FARK:

Bad ManToday’s phony egghead study about women being good and men being bad, brought to you from Sweden.

Men are worse for the environment than women, spending more on petrol and eating more meat, both of which create greenhouse gas emissions. These are the conclusions of a new report by the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

“Three out of four cars in Sweden are today driven by men. Around ten percent of all drivers, mainly main, account for 60 percent of car journeys,” report author Gerd Johnsson-Latham told Svenska Dagbladet.

Huh. I’m a man, and I’m probably in the ten percent that accounts for 60 percent of all car journeys.

I’d guess out of the hundreds of thousands of miles I’ve driven, perhaps fifty-five to sixty-five percent of them were miles I drove because a woman sent me there. Oh, but wait we’re counting journeys, not miles, and I can understand why: My car pollutes much more badly in the first three minutes after I’ve started it up, just like any car. Well…trips to the grocery store tend to be pretty short, mostly within those three minutes — so by journey instead of by mile, it might be closer to seventy-five percent. At some times in my life, such a quotient would slink up toward ninety.

What do the Swedish propeller-beanie wearing eggheads have to say about men causing global warming by driving around in their cars after women have asked them to? Gosh…I just don’t know.

I’ll keep an eye out for any Americans touting this study, with little or no reservations about doing so. I’m reluctant to seriously imagine I’ll come across too many examples of this. For all our faults, Americans are a little bit better at sniffing out phony egghead studies that were churned out from some pre-existing agenda. Some of us lag way behind in that department, but it seems we’re overall better than some places in Europe, notably the Scandinavian ones…in spite of what we’re constantly told.

And this one’s just so blatant. Wow, they managed to kill three birds with one stone: men; the internal combustion engine; the consumption of red meat. Ooh, we gots a study that says all three are bad, bad, bad. No ax to grind here!

Sounds like a high-level overview of a Saturday Night Live skit. But no, it’s real.

Best Sentence XIII

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

The Best Sentence I’ve Heard Lately award goes now to Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) President James Tonkowich, testifying before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works last Thursday, about which we learned via blogger friend Rick at Brutally Honest:

The kind of radical fideism that some evangelical Christians are exhibiting toward catastrophic global warming is a betrayal of science and a betrayal of the Christian intellectual tradition. It is a betrayal of science because science is not about voting. Science is about facts, interpretations of those facts, and conclusions that either align with reality or don’t.

This bears repeating. What was that again?

Science is not about voting.

Lest I be accused of beating a dead horse: This is not something we’ve often pondered over our nationwide, multiple-generations-long argument about climate change f.k.a. global warming f.k.a. oncoming ice ages. This point has seldom been made, and when I do see it made, it seldom sticks. Instead, what I see is the protagonist says “drastic action is needed because all the scientists agree” and then the antagonist, who could very reasonably reply “science is not about voting,” is compelled instead to supply a list of names of scientsts who do not agree. Usually, the protagonist will then respond with a screed against these scientsts who fail to agree, instructing the rest of us to ignore the maverick scientists because they’re stupid, they’re evil, they’re stupid/evil, there’s hard evidence they are “on the payroll of Haliburton and Enron,” or if there is no such muck that has been raked then surely it is forthcoming.

Lost in the flotsam and jetsam, is that simple declaration that in a saner universe, would up-end the entire argument and send it cartwheeling into the nearest ravine: Science is not about voting.

Science really isn’t about figuring out “what must be done,” either — and that is a lesson that could be better learned by some prominent officials in some very high places.

In fact, the whole climate change thing has been suspiciously quiet on exactly two subjects, on which it seems to me it ought not be. And those two subjects are: What is it that suggests to us we’re about to slip past some point of no return should no action be taken…and how do we know that we have not yet? I notice that the scientific mindset, prior to getting all screechy and agitated about our public policies and going supernova with some actvist fervor, would have to be satisfied on those two premises: Continuation of our current behavior, unaltered, will surely lead to catastrophe; and there is still time to mend our ways.

I don’t even see those two presumptions being debated anywhere. Not scentifically. I see charts and graphs and a bunch of allegations that “all the scientists agree” that, when I check’em out, turn out to be codswallop. I see ad hominem attacks. Oh, and I see scientific “experts” who are actually on someone’s payroll…on both sides.

When someone tells me what they know and how they know it, it all boils down to this: The “mean temperature” went up by a degree or so over the last century. That’s all.

And when I start asking probing, scrutinizing questions about what a “mean temperature” really means in a large ecosystem on the crust of a rocky sphere with a nine-thousand-degree liquid iron core, very few people can answer me, and the ones who can, reveal that “mean temperature” doesn’t scientifically describe something with such rustic simplicity, and with such surgical precision, as to justify adrenaline and panic when it meanders upward by a single notch. To put it simply, we really know very little, and it would be fair to replace the word “little” with “nothing.”

The Perils of Consensus Science

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Consensus science has a broad appeal to non-inquisitive people. It’s the process of taking a vote on something that we all, deep down inside, intuitively know shouldn’t be put to a vote.

Trouble is, you’ve got to be selective. Our environmentalists insist we use consensus science on global warming, but turn around and abandon it when the topic changes to genetically-engineered food.

And you know, that just doesn’t end up looking very scientific.

Thing I Know #129. Leaders; votes; clergy; academics; pundits; prevailing sentiment; political expediency. Wherever these decide what is & isn’t true, an empire will surely fall.

Elections Have Consequences? On Science?

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

The Media Research Center posts some eye-popping stuff, but this item really stands out.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma): “I mentioned this in my opening statement about they’re, they’re criticizing you for some of your, your being too alarmist and hurting your own cause. Now, I’ll ask you to respond in writing for that one because that would be a very long response, I’m afraid. Now, it seems that everybody — Global warming in the media joined the chorus last summer-”

Former Vice President Al Gore: “Well, I would like to–” “May I–” “May I-”

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California): “Excuse me, Senator Inhofe. We’ll freeze the time for a minute.”

Inhofe: “Oh, yes.”

Boxer: “I’m just trying to make-”

Inhofe: “Take your time. We’re freezing the time.”

Boxer: “No, no. We’re freezing the time just for a minute. I want, I want to talk to you a minute, please. [Laughter] Would you, would you agree, would you agree to let the Vice President answer your questions? And then if you want an extra few minutes at the end, I’m happy to give it to you. But we’re not going to get anywhere.”

Inhofe: “Why don’t we do this, why don’t we do this— At the end, you can have as much time as you want to answer all the questions?”

Boxer: “No, that isn’t the rule. You’re not making the rules, used to when you did this. [Boxer holds up the gavel.] You don’t do this anymore. Elections have consequences.”

Well, for the record I find Sen. Boxer’s suggestion to be reasonable. I’ts long been a pet peeve of mine when senators ask what are called “questions” but what, in reality, have nothing to do with the inquisitive nature or the brevity one would associate with something called a question. Were I king, there would be a hard-and-fast rule against it, with automatic impeachment for violators. Questions are questions. No grandstanding.

When I take everything over and become emperor, that’s my twenty-first order of business.

But I’ll say this. I don’t understand what ensuring the continuing survival of the planet, has to do with settling old scores in that exclusive club known as The Senate. Boxer, and all who cheer on her little personal vendetta, must know global warming to be a crock; for if there was something to it, how would this little score she has to settle with Inhofe, matter a tinker’s damn?

But this was really incredible. Keep in mind: Our electronic media continues to insist that media left-leaning bias is a myth. Keep it in mind…

Brianna Keiler: “Wow. All right. That was quite an exchange. And, you know, we were expecting something from Senator James Inhofe. He is a critic of global warming. In fact, he once said that global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people. So, certainly, we were expecting something from him. We thought maybe it might be with him and former Senator, former Vice President Al Gore, but it ended up between him and Senator Barbara Boxer. She really got a stinger in there, I will say.”

Don Lemon: “Good for her.”

How’s that fair? How’s that for objective reporting?

Really grasping to play “angel’s advocate” with this, I’d have to ponder…if you’d seen Al Gore’s movie, and came away with it really concerned about the continuing survival of our environment and our species, and “the science was settled” and so forth…I suppose you would be tempted to conclude the only thing standing between us, and salvation, is the endless political wheel-spinning in places of authority like the U.S. Congress. Overcome that, maybe we live, fail to do so, and we perish.

I guess then you’d get really excited when Sen. Boxer gets a stinger in there. And you’d say asinine things like “good for her.”

Understandable, but it has no place behind a news desk.

Why is this even in Congress, anyway? If 99 senators vote that global warming is a big crock, but it’s really going to destroy us, that just means the Senate is wrong; likewise, if 99 vote that it’s the plague of the 21st century but in reality it’s just a bag o’bovine feces, then again, the Senate is wrong.

And my wonderful liberal female hippy senator tells us elections have consequences. Do they really? If so, when are you going to vote on the freezing temperature of water, Barbara? Thirty-two degrees never did have much appeal to me, and I’ll bet a majority of us would appreciate something a bit more tepid. Get on that, will you? Elections have consequences.

Thing I Know #70. Courage has very little to do with being outspoken.
Thing I Know #129. Leaders; votes; clergy; academics; pundits; prevailing sentiment; political expediency. Wherever these decide what is & isn’t true, an empire will surely fall.

Is There A Global Temperature

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Ah, it’s like having a hard-to-reach itch finally scratched…I’ve been wondering about this for the longest time.

“It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth”, Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. “A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate”.

He explains that while it is possible to treat temperature statistically locally, it is meaningless to talk about a a global temperature for Earth. The Globe consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average. That would correspond to calculating the average phone number in the phone book. That is meaningless. Or talking about economics, it does make sense to compare the currency exchange rate of two countries, whereas there is no point in talking about an average ‘global exchange rate’. [emphasis mine]