Sunday, December 27, 2009

With Regards to Bill Nye



This post started off as a reply to Steve's post, "A Different Perspective" which I suggest you read first.

You would put this in webdings just to be a dick, wouldn't you?

Anyway, the answer to these problems that Koontz talks about are actually pretty easy to explain.

To take the first part, well, first, he's absolutely right about how in 100 years, people will think we were really, really stupid. I have no doubt about that. However, they will think that we were still smarter than people who lived 200, 300, 400 years ago. (This is a trick that I hear religious people use a lot to discredit all of science.)

In other words, there used to be people who thought the Earth was flat, and they were wrong. There used to be people who thought the Earth was a sphere, and they were wrong. But the sphere people were much, much closer to the truth than the flat people. (It's an oblate spheroid, in case you were wondering.)

The thing about the horses is just silly. I can't even understand why he would say that it's impossible to put these horses in the correct order. I'll grant that it's much more difficult to pinpoint the precise date of something, but the correct order is a piece of cake. There are typically hundreds of thousands of years between two species of animal, (More on the word species later.) so all it takes a precursory glance at which group of skeletons shows more decay than another. Besides that, if something is buried deeper than something else, it usually means it was there longer.

He also, for some reason I also can't explain, seems to be confused on what a "specie" is. He says that the different fossils of "horses" are "different species". Well, yeah, duh. I don't think anyone has ever said differently.

There is in fact a SERIES of different species that resulted in (among other things) the modern-day horse. The modern-day horse and its ancestor are most definitely not the same species; they cannot mate. There was, however, a horse (many horses!) that could mate with its parents' generation, but not its grandparents'. This is kind of the point of evolution.

This is a small point to make, but it needs to be made: the smallest measure of time is not the length of time it takes for one "ray" (What the fuck is a ray, Koontz?) to pass by the "smallest distance on the molecular level of the universe." First of all, this sounds like a very arbitrary source of measuring time. And secondly, it's too big. Molecules are made of atoms, which are made of protons, neutrons, electrons, which are made of quarks. You probably can't go any further than that when speaking in relation to photons (or, as Koontz says, a "ray".)

However, even after establishing this arbitrary and too-large minimum for the unit of time, he lengthens it even more! He says "for argument's sake" a millionth of a second, and then proceeds to do the calculations for it. If it's "for argument's sake" well then, the calculations really don't mean anything do they?

But back to the point I was making about him lengthening it even more, a millionth of a second is a RIDICULOUSLY long amount of time for a photon to cross a molecule. It's disgustingly long. To give you an idea about how wrong that number is, even as a shot-in-the-dark guess: A millionth of a second is 0.000001. That's how long it takes a photon of light to cross ONE-FIFTH OF A MILE. Yes, that math is correct, and it took me five minutes to do.

He then talks about the "little worm" (like he is superior to it!) and gives a gross misunderstand of how mutation and evolution work. But just to drive the point home about Koontz' poor math skills, he says that all the millionths of all the seconds added up makes for a staggeringly large number. He's correct, as this number is 6.307200e+23 (as a weird quirk of math, very close to avagadro's constant). The one for just four billion years is 1.261440e+23. In case you're unfamiliar with exponential notation, that's kinda like the number 63 with 22 zeros behind it, and the number 13 with 22 zeros behind it. They look like this:
630,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
130,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

The human genome (that is, every bit of human genetic information) has about 3 billion pieces of information (base pairs or "features" as they're known in Koontz land). (Also, Koontz says that each gene has "thousands of bits of data" but it's more like millions.) And, to compare the numbers of millionths of second in four billion years to the number of base pairs in the human genome, it would look like this:
130,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
3,000,000,000

Now, base pairs are made up of two nucleotides, so there's about 6 billion nucleotides, and nucleotides are made up of 3 amino acids, so there's about 18 billion nucleotides. And this is assuming that Koontz' wacky idea about each individual piece of data mutated one by one, which is wrong. The nucleotides that I just spoke of only occur in certain combinations, 64 of them, to be exact. So, it would be completely unnecessary for each piece of data to mutate, because before one second was even finished, they would just be mutating into things they already made.

But again, this is assuming that each amino acid mutated by its lonesome, and there's no reason to think that. In fact, in terms of evolution and natural selection, it's much more likely that groups of base pairs or entire genes mutated. There's about 24,000 genes in the human body, (NOT 150,000) and since evolution happens over long periods of time (although, very suddenly within those long periods) there is more than enough time to do it in 4 billion years.

To make one final critique of his argument and to illustrate the weirdness of his thinking, he talks about the Cambrian explosion. In his exact words, “In the Cambrian period, at some point during a five-million-year window, which is as close as we can calculate it, a hundred new phyla appeared, thousands of species.” Now, compare it to what he said not two pages prior: “ And the assumption that those fossils are arranged in the correct order, showing progression in certain features, can't be supported with evidence. Neither carbon dating nor any method of fixing the period of a fossil is precise enough to support that arranged order. Again, they've been assumed to belong in that order, but mere assumptions do not qualify as science.“

Hopefully, you understand my confusion on how he can hold both these thoughts in his brain at once, but, in case you do not, I'll explain. Not only does his argument open with this idea that it's impossible that we can ever really know the date of when fossils were created, he closes by saying that it's so weird that all these fossils were created at the same time, which he knows. Either the fossil record is reliable, or it isn't. You can't have it both ways.

He also makes, in one of the grandest moments of enlightenment, the statement that assumptions are not science. So true. But then, why assume that thousands of species were created in such a short period of time? Would it not be more accurate to say that there are only a few fossils before 530 million years ago, making no assumptions whatsoever, stating just the facts. When I say it like this, the solution becomes clear: before 530 million years ago, stuff just didn't fossilize that often. In fact, the vast majority of stuff doesn't fossilize, both in number of organisms and the amount that they leave behind (namely, just their bones.) It is completely reasonable to say that a lot of stuff didn't have bones before the Cambrian explosion (and, this is supported by evidence, since a lot of stuff still didn't have bones afterwards either.)

In closing, I understand very well that Koontz is not a scientist; He's a writer. However, it didn't take me all that long to look up some of the numbers I didn't know, or do some of the math, which I am notoriously bad at (being a writer myself). I don't want to say that Koontz is an idiot or that anyone who believes it is an idiot. (Really.) It pisses me off that he wrote about all this stuff without really understanding it. I mean, the thing about the molecule and the photon of light crossing it in a millionth of a second was wrong in so many ways, it was almost incomprehensible. And, again, I'm not even a scientist, so some of the more complicated points that I maybe-kinda-understand-but-not-really got left out of this post. Science is a tough bitch, she can take a punch better than all of us put together, but please folks, treat her with respect.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Trying to Post More Often. I Really Am.



Some Cool Things

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday is Boring!


"He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers gave birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves."
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Dump
  • Sweet. Another awesome reason for me to hate planes. Science is cool and all, but so wish it weren't going to be responsible for my untimely and grizzly death. That's supposed to be cocaine's job.
  • Glenn Greenwald with an update on Graham-Lieberman, something you should make yourself aware of, seeing as how I can't picture boring bill news being on the air, what with our supreme court nominee dissing upper-class white males all the time. Lay off, chick. Have you ever had to go to Lowes on a Saturday morning? That shit is tough.
  • And, Greenwald again with a few (out of many) recaps on countries that have prosecuted or acquitted potential terrorists. Just two, but I know that the left out Spain, the UK, and (wonder of wonders) the US.
  • It doesn't really matter much, but it's sad to see Taiwan abandon traditional characters for the simplified characters of the mainland. It suggests to me the beginning of the end for traditional Han characters as a modern language. Sure, they were hanging onto those traditional characters out of spite for mainland China, and yes, the simple characters are much easier to use, but still.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Triumphant Something or Other

You're probably wondering why I'm here, why I'm not lying prostrate in a ditch somewhere, like nature always intended for me. It's simple really, math simple, even:
If, (amount of sex being had) > 0
Then, (everything else) = 0
And, since the past three months saw an average of 0.000327 Joules of sex, there has been no blog writing in that time. I mean, when a girl offers you 0.0327% percent of her vajayjay, you have to reshift your priorities.

It's actually rather difficult to back into the saddle, so to speak, but public writing is a good habit for anyone to have, so I will invigorate my feeble blog-writing muscles with a 150 word post about writing in the blog. There's really precious little reason you should still be reading.

There may or may not be a few changes happening. For instance, the colors of the blog may or mayn't have changed to blue and gray, the most obstreperous colors in the spectrum. The title is now The Peripatetic, meaning me. This reflects a change from a literary modus vivendi, to one of education (both ways, teaching and learning) and travel (in all directions but one because I abhor digging).

Actually, that's about all that will change. You, dear reader, in the singular, will still be subjected to my ineluctable political and film rants disguised as clever insight. Probably some rancorous bitching about atheistic affairs as well. (I'm a fun guy to be around.)

Now, the only challenge is going to come from caring enough to write for the four people that read this. (They are, in no particular order: myself, my friend Steve, my mom, and myself. Thanks guys.)

A list I composed of things I want to write about but make no promises that I will do so:
Star Trek review
Let the Right One In review
Visitor Q review
Drag Me to Hell review
A Tale of Two Sisters review
Dear Salvador, Time Management for Dummies
Dear Salvador, The Female Orgasm: Myths and Also Myths
This "Preventative Detention" bullshit
This "Dr. Tiller getting killed" bullshit
This "In god we trust" bullshit
The many reasons why Obama is worse than Bush

And, I suppose I should tout my other worthless blog, Duck Pudding. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Nature is always more subtle, more intricate, more elegant than what we are able to imagine."
--Carl Sagan

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
--Charles Darwin

"Societies that teach contentment with our present situation in life in expectation of a post-mortem reward, tend to inoculate themselves against revolution."
--Carl Sagan

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Help! We're Being Persecuted!

A survey on the religions of the American public was just released. It showed a near-uniform loss in numbers for every religion, and a near-uniform gain in numbers for non-religious. Atheists everywhere on the internets began cheering. This, I feel, is a complete lack of foresight, because it will only strengthen those mindless "War on Christianity" arguments that will be used to mobilize the masses into doing something stupid out of fear that religion will be banned. It saddens me that I'm the only one cynical enough to see this happening.

I'm not going to be the one to start crying "apocalypse" or "be afraid", but this is the path that the false "Help! We're being persecuted!" usually take. Be prepared for this transparent bullshit.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

God in the News

The title of this post is "God in the News", but as soon as I started writing it, I realized that it has nothing to do with god or the news, but has everything to do with language. I'm going to keep that title though, to remind everyone of my poor judgment (as though that were necessary).

One of the top story headlines on the BBC homepage this morning read, in order, "'Miraculous' survival in Turkey".

There are a lot of atheists that cry foul pretty quickly here. Myself, speaking as an atheist, I take issue when the word "miracle" is thrown about, even in situations such as these, where the mention of god never occurs. I find it intellectually dishonest to claim that things like these are miracles, but if the man had died, it's hardly ever claimed that god extended his divine finger to kill this man.

As a linguist, I understand that the word "miracle" contains a connotation that's inimitable. The phrase "really lucky" simply does not compare. You are really lucky if you see a $50 on the ground. You are certainly far beyond "really lucky" if you get hit by truck propelled by a train and live to eat cake a few days later. Miracle it is not, but "really lucky" only partially covers it.

Part of the reason religion permeates our lives is because it permeates language. There are better ways to write the headline "'Miraculous' Survival". It's true. "Man Gets Hit by Truck. Eats Cake." is a good one I just came up with on the spot. But the original headline creates an atmosphere that "Man Truck Boom" can't compete with. The present language we have can't excite adequately, and the religious language we have can't inform properly.

To get a better idea of what I'm talking about, the headline directly below -- literally, right underneath it -- that one reads: "Bionic Eye Gives Blind Man Sight." That's right. A blind man can see because of technology.

Which is the real miracle here? If something happens because of luck, we attribute that to the divine. If something happens due to ingenuity and intelligence, we attribute that to humankind. I know whose side I want to be on.

Monday, March 2, 2009

On Open-mindedness

"The giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the bible."
-John Wesley

"To deny the possibility, nay, actual existence of witchcraft and sorcery is at once flatly to contradict the revealed word of God in various passages of both the Old and New Testament."
-William Blackstone

The Big Bang

"All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have."
-Albert Einstein

"It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it."
-Edmund Way Teale

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dear Salvador: Lesson #2 - A Few Words on Women

Disclaimer

Dear Salvador,

On Fashion:
When undressing for sex, your socks should always be removed before your pants. If you end up being seen in your underwear and still wearing your socks, you may not recover. This situation doesn't apply to women, so don't get tricked by watching women undress and trying to emulate them.

On Touching:
Imagine a naked woman standing with her arms at her sides. (Feel free to play along at home.) This is easy for you, because you're high school, and you were probably doing it before I asked you too. Now, imagine this naked woman standing under a shower faucet slowly dripping water. Drip. Drip. Drip. Like this.

If your powers of concentration are strong enough, you can see the individual water droplets moving downward and eventually off of her, via her toes or her fingers. It is important to realize that the path the water droplet takes is different each time (ala Ian Malcolm). Whenever you make contact with a woman, it is important not to repeat your own actions too much. You don't want to touch her the same way over and over again. She is not a cat.

To return to the faucet analogy, take your imaginary woman and move her around barbie-doll style. Have her bend at the elbow, putting her hands in the air for instance. Which way is the water moving now? The "toe water" should be the same, but the "finger water" is now moving off of her by her elbows, not her fingers. If she lifts her leg out to one side, the exit point is now the heel. If she bends at the knee like a flamingo, the exit point is the bottom of the foot.

The reason I mention this change in body position and why it's important is that your movements when you're touching a woman should be akin more to moving outward instead of downward. That is, your goal should never be just fingers and toes, but elbows, knees, wrists, backs, etc. etc..

And your actions should follow-through to their completion. If you're stroking a woman's arm, for example, your hand should never stop halfway between the elbow and the wrist. (You can try it on yourself if you're alone right now.) It feels weird, it looks weird, and it actually will make her feel like a pet, instead of a woman.

That is also to say that you don't need to mimic the water droplet originating at the top of the head either. Of course it would be really awkward if you started your hands on the top of her head and moved it all the way to her toes. In practice, you should consider the water droplet having a different origin, not necessarily the top of the head. That is, imagine your hand and the drop of water starting in the same place and leaving in the same place.

On Shortcuts:
You've probably heard of the really stupid book, "How to Make Friends and Influence People". One of the key pieces of advice this book offers is the platitude, "interested is interesting." (That is, if you feign enthusiasm for someone else, they will think you're an interesting person. This is complete bullshit, and I'll explain more about it later.)




Take a look at this picture of Farrah Fawcett. This poster went on to sell 12 million copies and was the definitive image of the definitive sex symbol of the 1970s. We can safely assume that this is a sexy picture (although dated).

Now, my question is "Why is this picture sexy?"

You can quickly name a lot of things: the hair, the eyes, the smile, the legs, the breasts, the obvious nipples, so on and so forth. What I want you to do though, is take the Farrah in this picture and imagine her standing with her arms at her sides, staring at the ground. It immediately becomes less sexy. In fact, it actually becomes nothing more than a study in anatomy, instead of sexiness.

The thing that makes this a sexy poster, as opposed to a poster of a sexy woman, is that Farrah is smiling and looking at you. That is, she is finding you attractive. In fact, if you do a quick google search of any and all PG rated pictures of this kind, they are almost always looking directly into the camera. They are looking at you.

Therefore, we can agree that if a woman finds us sexy, the situation itself becomes sexy. This works the same in reverse, albeit a little differently. If you can convince a woman that you find her sexy, it will help convince her that you are sexy. The problem is defining the line between showing your appreciation and just plain being creepy. All people like to be looked at in a positive manner, to be sure, but not everyone appreciates being eye-fucked. This is a distinction that I can't teach you, and you'll probably just have to practice. (Consider this your homework assignment.)

On Dichotomy:
The semanticist SI Hayakawa described everything as being either a two-valued orientation, or a multi-valued orientation.

The two-valued orientation is easily characterized by "good/bad" although it branches out into other orientations. For instance, if you're starving, he writes, everything in the world is either "food" or "not food", and anything that doesn't fall into one of these catergories does not exist for you. Meaning, if you're hungry in Calcutta, a bench in Rome is not even a part of your world. It doesn't exist. A second example he gives is fear. If your life is in danger, everything around you is suddenly divided into "things that can help me" or "things that can hurt me". Nothing else matters besides these two things.

The multi-valued orientation is when you take a look at something and can acknowledge both the good and the bad, as well as an infinite number or other possibile values. For instance, you will never divide all the movies in the world into the two categories "good" and "bad". You will instead say, "This is a funny movie" or "This is a sad movie". And even within that, you acknowledge that not every second of the movie is funny, and that some scenes are funnier than others. No movie is 100% of X and 0% of Y.

The two-valued orientation is used for stuff like eating and surviving. Human stuff. The multi-valued orientation is better for things like art, politics, and things like that. (We'll probably come back to this idea, actually, when we discuss politics.)

The problem with this is that sex is one of those "human things." This means that, as men, we categorize women into "good" "bad" or "doesn't exist." If you sit back and think about the women in your life, you will do this. Some women you will like and want to date, some women you don't like and don't want to date, and there are probably a multitude of women that didn't even register in your thoughts, some that are probably close to you and you see every day.

Start doing this today. Stop asking "Do I like her?" and start asking "What do I like about her?" In other words, stop using the two-valued orientation and switch to the multi-valued.

Your relations with people will improve tremendously. You will be able to acknowledge a person's strengths first and foremost when considering them (something that is important to them), as opposed to think about whether or not you like them (something that is important only to you). I can't say that this is the instant shortcut to popularity or that you'll be a Cassanova in no time, but I will tell you that this is the very best way to treat people in the best way.

This has the added benefit of quickly making you immune from entering into a bad relationship. If you ever had a conversation with a friend whose dating a monster of a girlfriend, you'll find that he has trouble naming a good quality about her. Usually he'll respond with something like "She makes me happy" or something along those lines, which implies a two-valued orientation as though the woman were food. With the multi-valued orientation, you can say that you appreciate X and Y qualities about her, and then ask yourself if those qualities are the most important to you. (Example: If Girl X is really smart, but Girl Y can snowboard, you have to ask yourself which of these qualities is more important in a mate.)

And that is your lesson for this week. I can't stress enough about the multi-valued orientation, about how you should start asking what it is you like about each woman (and person) around you, as opposed to whether or not you like them. Start doing that right now.

Sincerely,
Master Splinter

Dear Salvador: Lesson #1 - A Disclaimer

Dear Salvador,

Your first lesson is going to be the most important: Do not trust me.

One of the more interesting polls I've heard about in my lifetime was done Americans asked to rate their own driving skill. Over 80% said they were above average.

The first reason I say this poll is interesting is because the majority of people think they are above average, which means that at least some of them have cogitated themselves into delusion. They think their way of doing things must be better. (Perhaps by sole virtue of being their own ability and irrelevant to driving skill.)

The second reason this is interesting is that even though 80% of the people thought they were above average, 100% of the people think that they know what average is.

This is how the human mind works, and it is not limited to thoughts on operating automobiles. It can, in fact, be applied to our thoughts on life in general and every aspect of it. Whether we think we're living above average, below average average, or even perfectly average, we all are certain as to what the ideal is.

Think about yourself for a moment. You try to do things as best you can (every person does) but even when you know you've done something wrong, you usually know what you should have done right, and you know how serious your offenses are. (Missing homework to play video games = bad. Missing homework to punch your mother in the neck = worse.)

Even if we feel we're not living well, we still have an idea of how to do it. This is where advice comes from. The reason you shouldn't trust it is because one person's ideal life is not necessarily better than the ideals of the 99.99% of people on this planet.

I want to make it unambiguously clear, then, that I don't want to tell you what to do or how to live your life. For one, it will make me look like a completely arrogant asshole (which might not be false, but it doesn't mean I'm trying to make myself look like it.) For two, if I tried to teach you or anybody else anything, it would probably have the opposite effect I sought. Nobody likes to be preached to, especially when they probably consider themselves to be a pretty good driver.

So why am I wasting your time and my time by giving "lessons"? The reasons actually have more to do with me than you.

One of my more idiosyncratic personality traits is the urge to think things through until their completion. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it is what it is. For instance, if someone mentions "Master Splinter", I have the uncontrollable desire to learn everything about him. Or the television show VR Troopers. I sat on the bus the other day and wondered why some animals were better domesticated than others. (Was the domestication process started for dogs and cats earlier than ferrets and rabbits? Are dogs and cats simply more genetically capable of living with humans?) So when I jokingly christened you as my "pupil" to initiate you to our circle of friends, my mind immediately went off on "what can I teach the young padawan?" One month later and my mind is still working on this wide topic. I can see that it won't go away, so I'm writing it down.

Which leads me to my second reason for doing this (besides my neurological damage,) I like writing, and I don't even think I care about what I write about. Some of the ideas I'll share would have probably found their way to the inner monologue of a fictional character I would have created, or an angry rant about politics, etc. etc.. The point is, for the moment, this will be the outlet for my thoughts. Until I get bored of it.

Which is not to say that you might not benefit from it. Even if you don't trust me, it doesn't mean I might not be right. To follow-up that claim, there are certainly some things about which I am most assuredly wrong. (My advice on women is highly suspect, for example. But consider these lessons as a part of the cataract of knowledge thrown in your face for your entire life. As with everything, you can choose to accept, reject or ignore it.

The third reason I'm doing this is because it helps out personally, as an exercise in self-awareness. I have to think about why and how I live the way I do (which is a beneficial practice for anyone) and then make my thoughts coherent enough to write them down and still make sense. After that, because this blog is public, have them held up to scrutiny (which I welcome whole-heartedly, by the way) by my closest friends and complete strangers looking for sonic porn.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is, don't trust me.

Sincerely,
Master Splinter

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Xenomorph Reference #3,083

To continue with the previous nincompoopery, I found this link today:

From Adkisson's manifesto:
Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....
These are the views expressed by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and other right-wing media celebrities. Millons of Americans rely on these sources as their only source of news and political commentary. Be afraid.

Do you hear that? Be afraid.

Aneurin Bevan

"It is inherent in our intellectual activity that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we realize it, it is we who become prisoners of the description. From that point on, our ideas degenerate into a kind of folklore which we pass to each other, fondly thinking we are still talking of the reality around us."
-- Aneurin Bevan

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Xenomorph Reference #3,082

In the world of politics, there are what I like to call "teachable moments," places in time where the people of any given country sit back and go, "Huh. Well, let's never do that again." The Watergate scandal is a good example of this. That was a "whoops" moment, and we learned from it, watching our elected and appointed officials much more carefully from then on out.

I feel like, if I pulled up any random link on this blog, something about how we didn't learn much after 9/11 would appear. Or a joke about poop. Could go either way.

Regardless of how you feel about the actions of the Bush administration, it is clear that the country went in two different directions. I hate categorically labeling everyone in the nation as "one" or "the other" but I think that description is apt enough to keep. And, if I were to completely oversimplify the situation, the dividing line occurs at the issue of how dangerous Al Queda is. Questions about whether you think the actions of the Bush administration were right or wrong, questions about civil liberties, questions about interrogation tactics...whatever, are all originated in the question of exactly how big of a threat you feel these people are.

I won't get into the reasons why I think what I think about terrorism, but in general, I'm not too scared of it. And again, to speak in general and to oversimplify the situation, I think most the left-of-center crowd in America agrees with me. Yes, they are scary, but not world-ending scary. These are not xenomorphs we're talking about.

You may have heard about this news story. Maybe you didn't, because to me, it doens't sound life-changing.

Adkisson, the guy that did all the shooting and whatnot, wrote up a four-page suicide note slash "manifesto" which was recently released to the public. If I may provide the juiciest of bits:

"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me."

David Neiwert, over at Crooksandliars.com (fairly popular for a blog), had this to say about the incident.

It is fearmongering, pure and simple. The comparisons to this blog post and the language of post-9/11 terror is almost identical, to say nothing of the hyperbolic nature of the piece. If I may:

James Adkisson has been sentenced to life behind bars for the deaths of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, the Unitarian Universalist martyrs who died during his assault on their church in Knoxville, TN last July. (emphasis mine in this and all subsequent quotes)

Adkisson will likely emerge from this as a new hero of the extreme right wing.

We are no longer safe, not even in our own houses of worship.

A significant part of this country's media infrastructure is thoroughly devoted to inciting people to commit horrific acts of violence against us.

Neiwert seems incapable of focusing on anything other than "us and them". That is the only way he can see this event. For me, I am looking at the act of a crazy person, who killed victims, who will be seen as a hero only by other crazy people.

This is where our political discourse breaks down, and it's a big problem. I have to wonder how somebody can sit and without a hint of irony, write that the media wants people to harm him. This is insanity.

He even makes the very broad statement about "[us] being no longer safe." Without bothering to define the "[us]", he makes it clear that yes, the world is ending. The media is out to get "us" and people who follow right-wing ideaology want nothing more than to murder liberals. This is insanity.

A big part of many people's problems is that Adkisson was a fan of such-and-such right-wing media personality. To say that any form of media -- this includes music, radio, TV, video games -- incites one to murder is, well, insanity.

It's insanity of the worst kind too. It has bred fear amongst a group of people, ill-defined they may be, and cast members of the American public as homocidal psychopaths and people that cannot be reasoned with. The sooner we stop drawing Xs over people in the world, the better off and less murdered we'll be.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Love It


"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Baby-Face Ike

Friday, February 6, 2009

Also, Romance Novel Out in June

Obama has an op-ed in the Washington Post today. Has this ever happened before with a president?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Stimulus Package, Part the Third

PART 2--ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY BOARD

SEC. 1221. ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY BOARD.

    There is established a board to be known as the ‘Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board’ (hereafter in this subtitle referred to as the ‘Board’) to coordinate and conduct oversight of Federal spending under this Act to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.

    ...

SEC. 1230. FUNDING.

    There is hereby appropriated to the Board $14,000,000 to carry out this subtitle.



$14 million dollars to make sure we don't spend too much. Washington is so funny.

In their defense, the website is pretty shitty, thus far. I'm sure with a few million they can buy some pictures.

The Stimulus Package, Part the Second

SEC. 1112. ADDITIONAL ASSURANCE OF APPROPRIATE USE OF FUNDS.

    None of the funds provided by this Act may be made available to the State of Illinois, or any agency of the State, unless: (1) the use of such funds by the State is approved in legislation enacted by the State after the date of the enactment of this Act; or (2) Rod R. Blagojevich no longer holds the office of Governor of the State of Illinois. The preceding sentence shall not apply to any funds provided directly to a unit of local government: (1) by a Federal department or agency; or (2) by an established formula from the State.



Can I make this any funnier? What happens if he robs the train with all the money on it? This is a serious concern.

The Stimulus Package

SEC. 1109. PROHIBITED USES.

    None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.



You know what that means. That's right! Hookers for everybody!

Seriously though, is frivolous spending at the aquarium a problem in the federal government? And furthermore, there are so many other places you can blow your money besides these five places. Hello? Six Flags?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy 2009!

Mission accomplished. I have successfully avoided the month of January.

I would love to tell you people that writing, any writing, is like a well. If you leave alone for long enough, it will surely be brimming with delicious metaphorical water to drink. Alas, writing is like a big ugly rock you have to roll from place to place. This post is a pathetic attempt to get that thing moving again.

Case in point, this post originally began with the word "miccion". What I'm getting at here is lower your expectations, and sharply.

There have been things that I've been thinking about, and save for the occasional rant I beam towards my unfortunate friends and coworkers, they get bottled up. I am afraid of Obama. There, I said it.

I've often said that 9/11 provided us with an opportunity to examine deeply and impartially quite a number of things: our place in the world and religion's place in the country, to name the two most important. We chose to forego that noise in favor of making kerploodies around the world. Three cheers for American hubris, the only thing we still manufacture ourselves.

I can see the same thing happening to the country with the "changing of the guard" that just occurred. People love Obama a lot or they hate Obama a lot, but it doesn't feel (at least to me) that anyone is looking with a skeptical eye. The method may have changed, but it results in the same unquestioning loyalty that the Bush administration cajoled us into adopting. This time it's love, and not fear.

I've been able to catch a little TV here and there in slow days. It's disturbing to see Jon Stewart cheer Obama on every night. No Jon, you should not be doing that. Make with the yuk-yuks, funny man.

There are a lot of things that should be on the table right now, but they simply aren't. 3 Pakistani children died a short while ago because of one of our missiles. Obama ordered it and has -- repeatedly -- declared that intends more of the same. He has stated he fully supports Israel in its recent battle against Hamas, despite knowing that 1,300 civilian deaths is frowned upon amongst people with souls. He has passed a bill with tax cuts, despite being against tax cuts throughout his campaign. He is seeing imaginary Iranian nuclear weapons in his head, with contradictory, American-based intelligence at his fingertips. He's also been hanging around quite a bit of assholes lately (Daschle, Lynn, Warren) and some of his recent cabinet posts have been considerably confusing (Clinton, Gates). Jury's still out on DOMA, healthcare and the prosecution of war criminals. The aforementioned stimulus plan doesn't look too good, but I'll save judgment for later.

And I just don't hear the opposition for this. The guy is nice, I agree. He's completely likable. But this is our chance, our second chance, as a nation, to look at our president with a skeptical, discerning eye instead of blind adoration. My recommendation is that we take it, but we won't receive another chance to redefine ourselves for a long time.