Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thursday Blows

So apparently Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are dating. It wouldn't have seemed like such a publicity stunt but the story was broken by their publicity agents. For some reason, this is considered among the top stories of national importance. I mean is this more ... oh wait, the top story is apparently the Jackson Trial. Sorry to bother you.

Boston Red Sox Curt Schilling called out Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella concerning the multiple scuffles that occurred during the weekend series between the two teams. First off, Schilling is overreacting: I doubt that Piniella ordered his pitchers to aim for the head. The Devil Rays pitching is awful enough that a back or leg shot could easily turn into head-hunting. Now, Piniella says that no one on his team was talking shit about him to the Red Sox as Schilling had claimed. Seriously, would anyone on his team say otherwise? Yeah, it's really a good idea to admit that you insulted the crazy manager behind his back.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

How About Maggots in the Oatmeal?

We all now know the Wendy's finger in the chilli fiasco turned out to be a hoax. I will say, though, that chilli is probably the worst food to eat at a restaurant. Most other food you can kind of see is something is messed up with it. Not so with chilli. I love chilli, but I stick to the homemade variety.

Personally, I have had my own string of bad luck when it comes to gross things in my food. Last night, I purchased two buffalo wing wraps from a store that will remain nameless. The first one was delicious, but finding a foot long hair in the other-after it was half-eaten-disappointed me to say the least. Stuff like this has happened a lot, but three other incidents now come to mind:

1. Cockroaches at a popular restaurant.

2. Dead lady bugs falling in my Froot Loops, followed by me eating the dead lady bugs. (By the way, I understand why they have the distinguishing color: they don't taste so good.)

3. Maggots or worms in my Quacker Instant Oatmeal. (Packets were sealed so it wasn't my fault.)
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's Logical to Kill Disabled Babies, Right?

A few weeks ago, Time came out with a list of the 100 most influential people for 2005. The list spanned a number of fields and there were a number of interesting people on it. The little spiel for Princeton Professor Peter Singer, however, rubbed me the wrong way:

It is easy to demonize Singer, 58, since his theory points toward conclusions that some find morally repugnant—for example, that euthanasia might be the appropriate response to the intractable suffering of an infant born with a terrible genetic malady. Those who scorn his views can rarely produce an argument about why he is wrong—they simply don't like his conclusions. But ethics is all about arguments, not moral pronouncements.

The fact that Singer advocates this point of view was not news to me as I had been aware of the various controversies he has stirred up for awhile. What bothers me is the smug nature of the writer's pronouncements: basically that no one can challenge the brilliance of Singer's arguments, they just cannot stand his rock-solid conclusions. In reality, that's complete hogwash: his conclusions and his arguments can be attacked even by a "novice" such as myself. There is a lot of things he says that are questionable, but I will just address his idea that disabled children should be euthanized.

I'm not going to write an essay; I am going to keep this simple.

The argument for euthanizing disabled children comes from the assumption that we should be utilitarian and give the greatest good for the greatest number and along with that, that we want to minimize pain whenever possible.

Problems w/ Singer's Arguments: Disabled children may in fact take up more resources than healthy children, but contrary to popular belief we have the resources to afford their care. As far as food goes, famine is now caused not by food shortages but by supply problems do to disaster or warfare. Health care for such children is expensive , but there is plenty of excess production for goods that do nothing but produce marginal hedonistic pleasure, so spending more money on health care seems a reasonable expenditure of resources. Pain can be managed easily with modern medicine and disabled children usually are not trying to kill themselves to end what pain they do have to endure. Therefore, the best judge of pain, i.e. the person experiencing it does not feel that it is worth the loss of life.

Problems w/ Singer's Assumption: Calling on the authority of utilitarianism is a cheap rhetorical trick that assumes that going for the greatest good for the greatest number is always the best way to go. It is not that simple. Utilitarianism, taken to its extremes, would support the following:

1. Four people need transplants in order to survive and live a long and healthy life. One needs a heart, one needs a liver, and the other two need a new kidney each. They all have the same blood type and thus need the same donor.

2. There's a perfectally healthy man who matches this donor-type.

3. We kill this perfectally healthy man in order to save five lives because it is the greatest good for the greatest number. Saving four lives is worth one death, right?

(Oh and killing disabled babies is taking the theory to the extremes, isn't it?)

In the end this is the problem with trying to create new "logical" belief systems in order to replace the higher morality that man has followed for thousands of years. Relativist arguments fall apart but at least our inner morality has a firm compass to ground it and the possibility of at least being divinely inspired. "Logical" belief systems have to rely on circular arguments but cannot find that firm ground to build their assumptions.

With shaky rhetoric, Singer thinks that he has found the ethical path for resolving the conflict between maximizing resources and human life. My logic may be just as shaky, but I would much rather ere on the side of life instead of economic convenience.

(Think Singer is just a thoughtful academic fearlessly addressing controversial issues? Hmm.. perhaps, but the Dutch take his kind of thinking a little more seriously apparently.)
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Monday, April 25, 2005

The Curious Case of the Vice President

If you are looking for pure realism, you probably are not going to be too happy if you watch 24. While the show shines in many ways, the show stretches believability at least once a show. Still, I enjoy the show and it provides the occasional thought-provoking nugget from time to time. In the past two episodes, for example, involving the vice-president turned acting-president plot-twist has done just that. In 24, the veep's ignorance and timidity makes one think about what kind of vice presidents future presidents choose as our country continually faces important challenges.

It used to be that the vice-president was not taken seriously. At first, the VP was not part of a ticket but actually just the person who received the second highest total of electoral votes. (Imagine having this today: John Kerry as Bush's VP.) Thankfully this quickly changed after the 1800 tie between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson sparked the passage of the twelfth amendment soon after. Afterwards, the idea of a ticket was clearly entrenched into the election process. However, the thought of a premature end to a president’s term has long been put on the backburner when choosing a VP. The risk was not as apparent in the beginning and when it was, would-be presidents probably prefered to think about the VP gaining them a key state rather than being there because of a premature death. By accident, we now have a VP in Dick Cheney-that whatever you think of the current administration-is certainly no lightweight and is involved enough in the president’s agenda that we would not worry much about leadership if we lose our president. (I say by accident because Bush chose Cheney in order to counteract his lightweight image among the media and not because he wanted to have a good relief pitcher waiting in the wings.)

In the future, though, even the most experience public servant-turned presidential nominee should look to pick a vice-president that could clearly step in should he leave the office prematurely. Then once he’s elected, he should include the vice-president in his decision-making so that his replacement will not miss a beat. To encourage this, voters should be looking for the ticket not with the sexiest choice for VP, but the one that would best meet these criteria. Otherwise, we may find ourselves with poor leadership at a most critical time for our country.

(An interesting aside: many thought the VP would only take over prematurely and then call for a special election. The precedent from our first VP turned president, John Tyler, has now been fully accepted.)
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Friday, April 22, 2005

Aesop's Self-Help Book

We all use commonly used sayings in order to explain something, provide some words of caution or to just sound witty. Do you ever stop to wonder where these words of wisdom came from? More often than not, these proverbs or sayings come from the Bible or Shakespeare, but they also occasionally come from Aesop's Fables. Here's a sampling of the more famous Aesop sayings along with the fable that shows the principle in action.

"Do not count your chickens before they are hatched."


"Any excuse will serve a tyrant."

"We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction."


"One bad turn deserves another."

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

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Non Sequitor Seems A Lot Like Calvin and Hobbes

Now I never really read Non Sequitor outside of its Sunday version until recently. The Sunday version, although often getting into streaks of using the same characters, usually sticks to living up to its name: "Non Sequitor." Therefore, the characters and storylines often change randomly Sunday to Sunday.

Now that I read the comic somewhat regularly during the week, however, I am beginning to notice something: the usual Danae & Horse story lines seem eerily like Calvin and Hobbes. There is a precocious child with an active immagination and attitude who thinks up intricate plots with an animal friend. (I am not sure if the horse is supposed to be stuffed like Hobbes or real, but I think it's the latter.) The main difference is that the child is a girl and not a boy. So what's the deal? Anyway, take a look at today's edition of the comic strip and you'll see what I mean.
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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Here, Let Me Help You Take My Job

I always kind of thought that the whole outsourcing hysteria was a little overblown, but whenever I read those stories about the phenomenon I felt for the people losing their jobs to overseas competition. What really bothered me about these stories, however, was how the people losing work were forced by the company to help teach their replacements how do to their jobs. Now obviously these people could have chosen to quit their jobs early instead, but I have a feeling they knew that they would lose some sort of severence and any chance of getting a decent reference from their soon-to-be-former employer.

It really completely sucks that the job market was so bad that employers could get away with this. Why is training your replacement so bad after you get fired? Well it's like a guy just started doing your wife and he tells you that your wife will be divorcing you in about six months. He then says that your wife is going to make the divorce nasty for you and you'll lose all your money unless you teach him how to best screw your wife and how to make her happy. You are livid, but you check with a lawyer and you find out that your wife's lover is right. So you are forced to teach the guy all you know. I mean, I cannot think of a more humiliating situation.
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Gadsen Purchase 21st Century Style

You know, it's a real pain in the ass if you want to go from Michigan to Boston or New York City. Now that there is talk that you will need a passport when traveling to and from Canada, the time seems right to rectify the situation. We need to buy that sliver of Ontario that sits between Buffalo and Detroit. The number of people living there is minimal and I am sure Canada would rather have some cold American cash to pay for that universal health care system or one of our forgotten states so they can get warmer.

If we gave them North Dakota, for example, and they gave us that southern part of Ontario along with a seventh round draft pick in this weekend's NFL Draft, I think both countries would be happy with the trade. I would even be willing to offer Delaware instead if Canada would prefer a little southern vacation outpost in that forgotten state.

Sorry for offending any Canadians, North Dakotians or Delewaricans but business is business and I need to be able to go to Detroit without going to a foreign land and not driving five extra hours. So, what can I say?

What's the Gadsen Purchase you say? Here's the answer.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

10 Years Ago Today...

Timothy McVeigh, with the help of Terry Nichols, parked a truck bomb under the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The resulting explosing killed 168 people. It killed men and women who were just going to work and young children dropped off for day care.

The motivation for the bombing seems clear. McVeigh became angered with the government for the many civilian deaths during the seige of the Branch Dividian compound in Waco, Texas. What happened in Waco was a horrible tragedy and government actions there can only be called reckless endangerment at best. Instead of ensuring that what happened at Waco was rightfully addresses and that the victims were never forgotten, McVeigh went a different route. Almost exactly 2 years later, McVeigh killed more than twice as many more innoncent people in a terrorist act only surpassed by the events of September 11th. Ironically, McVeigh's actions has made it so that we remember Oklahoma City today and not Waco.

What lessons are there here? Terrorism often will take the focus away from the grevience that the terrorist has and put it on the acts themselves. Also, terrorism need not come from a foreign source: a few on the domestic fringe may betray their country as well.

Let us hope the victims and the events here are never forgotten no matter what larger tragedy may happen in the future.
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Monday, April 18, 2005

Real World v. Road Rules: Inferno II, Another Tasty Double Shot

Ok, so the laptop's still out, and last week's episode was jam-packed with goodies, so I wanted to make sure I could take notes to write a great summary. This week's was pretty sorry, so there won't be as much to say on that one. So without further ado, here goes.

There seems to be a new trend of gay shirts on the show. Mike sported one that said "Who said I was homophobic" and it shows two women's room girl symbols. Some show all 3 combinations of gay and straight couples. Just an observation.

This mission was water dodgeball, and of course, perpetuating the stereotype MTV can't seem to escape, Karamo doesn't want to get in the water. A very comical scene where everyone is startled by a water snake seals the deal. Karamo's taking a DQ. CT makes a good point "how can you expect to come to a challenge and not get wet?" Dan feels that his heat is screwed b/c MIke and the rest of the good guys "think about dodgeball" when they masturbate.

So oddly, the first heat consists if tge 4 scrawny Good Guys girls, vs 2 jacked girls and 3 huge guys from the Bad Asses. Sure, b/c that seems fair. The Good Guys get there asses kicked in that heat. Next heat, it looked like Landon totally got hit, but I guess it was by someone who had just gotten out so it didn't count. Darrell looks like he's helping the Good Guys w/ a comeback, and does some lame fake-out w/ his dodgeball. Not sure what the point of that was, but about 2 seconds later the Good Guys had lost, so whatever.

After their win, Karamo says his Bad Asses are "acting shady to me." Gee, maybe b/c you almost cost them $10,000? He then proceeds to say that they should "get over it." Easy to say. Later, Landon talks about "saving" Mike from the Inferno. He just wants Karamo to lose gracefully, which he shouldn't care about since Karamo is being lame anyway. Mike of course is only worried about looking "like a bitch," and is fuming most of the night.

When asked if he'd like to save Karamo, CT says "I don't feel like it," which is what Karamo said about bailing on the mission earlier. Nice dig CT. Karamo tells the camera that part of him hopes he loses to say "kiss my ass" to his team. Uh, how exactly does that "show" them? It just proves what they already think about you, that you can't handle it.

Landon jumps in for a pissed off Mike and beats Karamo. Karamo flips off his team and exits rather ungracefully. Landon remarks that he doesn't want Karamo to go home but "that's the name of the game." Uh...the name of the game is The Inferno II, where does it talk about going home? Anywho, Mike graciously congratulates Landon and says he just didn't want to lose a good competitor.

The end of the episode has a nice scene of everyone dancing. Did anyone catch Veronica's dance moves? She is AWful.


So onward to this week's episode. Jodi and Mike seem to be forming a pretty cute relationship, and she does a little skinny-dipping for him b/c she lost a bet. Flash to Veronica looking at a picture of Tonya (probably for Playboy)talking about how much it's been touched up. "Your legs are not this long" she remarks. Is Veronica really criticizing the length of someone's legs, b/c she has some of the shortest I've ever seen.

The mission's not even worth talking too much about b/c as usual the Good Guys lose. Man, can't they catch a break? The Good Guys do concoct a great scheme for Inferno voting. They wait until they hear the Bad Ass decision, and the Good Guy girl who gets voted in announces who she wants. Jodi and Julie wanted to go against Veronica, and Shavonda and Jamie wanted to go against Tonya. Jodi is voted in, and she selects to battle Veronica. The face on Veronica when she hears this is absolutely priceless, and they show it a good 3 or 4 times.

Somehow, the Bad Asses get wind of what happened, and they FLIP OUT. Essentially they're just pissed they got taken and want to get in Jodi's head. The Bad Asses keep talking about how "shady" it was. Whatever, it was smart. Dan tried to figure out a loophole in that clothes switching mission and he just made it worse, but it shows they tried stuff.

Anywho, so now everyone is jumping all over Jodi b/c they know she buckles under pressure, and it was the whole team's idea. Dan says "I thought I was the biggest bitch here." Ooh, ouch. But of course Jodi gets upset, and at one point has 4 Bad Asses in her face and yelling at her about how shady it was. Hello? Where is your time, and most of all Mike, to back you up? And Mike even talks about how it was 4 on 1 and how insane the Bad Asses are being. BACK UP YOUR TEAMMATE, WHAT THE HELL? Anyone else think that that was the shadiest part of the episode?

Next week's showdown should be good.
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Teach Our Kids Arabic

Back when I was much younger, my older sister was taking Russian in high school. She started in 1991 which happened to be around the final collapse of the Soviet Union. As her high school years went by, my sister was in the unfortunate position of trying to eke out proficiency in French her senior year because Russian was no longer being offered at school. Why was this the case? The Cold War had ended and people felt that having our future leaders learning Russian was no longer a priority. It was unfortunate that my sister was left in this predicament, but the initial idea was a great one: know your enemy. Our enemies in the Soviet Union spoke Russian and in order to have an effective intelligence apparatus, we needed to know their language.

This all seems clear, right? So then why then, with our intelligence in the Middle East obviously lacking, are we not attempting to have today’s youth learn Arabic? Certainly it is a difficult language with a complicated alphabet, but Russian does not use our alphabet and people have learned that. Besides, if we focused on teaching children at a younger age, they would have an easier time mastering this starkly different language. Obviously this is a plan that cannot pay dividends until the next ten years or so, but how certain are we that we can somehow defeat terrorism within the next few years? I would love for that to happen, but I have my doubts. It would be better for us to hedge our bets and have an army of young people ready to better handle this war in the future. Also, if terrorism has been reduced to a more minor problem by then, there should be revitalization and a growing economy in the Middle East. Knowing Arabic will still have its advantage if this happens.

Americans are less likely to know other languages mainly because English is now so ubiquitous due to our economic, cultural and military might. So we are in the unfortunate habit of only half-heartedly learning languages late in our adolescence when it is increasingly difficult to learn new languages. This must change in general, but it especially must change in regards to Arabic if we want to have the best chance to address the problem of terrorism.
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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Whoops, IE 6 Cut Off Posts for Months

So apparently the post-summary system I had been incorporating on this blog was not working in IE 6. This is why a lot of posts from the past two months seemed like they were cut off in IE 6. Instead of showing the link to the full post, the post just ended early without explanation.

This kind of sucks considering how heavily IE is used. If only I had tested it out there before I used it for so long... (I was using a tip that was found on a Spanish blog and the translation wasn't the best, so I missed the warning about the problems in IE).

Oh well, you live and learn. I am turning off the feature in all future posts and am slowly fixing the old ones. If you were ever curious about old, shortened posts, you can see the full posts by going to the individual post-page (the link to this can be found on the bottom of each post where it says the time the post was made).

Sorry for breaking the fourth wall, folks.
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Eliminate the 3? No, Make the NBA Like College

There has been a lot of complaints about how the three pointer has ruined the NBA. Proponents of this point of view argue that because a 33% probability of a three point shot equals a 50% probability of a two-pointer, players are taking a lot more ugly shots. Therefore, according to these critics, the three has hurt the quality of play in the NBA. Now it is hard for me to compare having the three point shot to not having it, because the three point shot has been in the NBA longer than I have been alive (23 versus 25 years). However, I think opponents of the three point shot are missing the forest from the trees: many more of the NBA's rules hinder quality of play.

I actually believe that the problem with the shot stems from the fact that the three point line is so far back in the NBA. It takes a much more difficult shot to make the three in the NBA than it does in college or in international play. Therefore you are always are going to have uglier shots. Actually, the NBA would benefit from adopting other rules found in the college game. The twenty-minute halves might make it harder for TV networks to find opportunities to go to commercial, but they liven up the game by removing the extra stops in play that occur in the current four-quarter system. College's zone-defense reduce the number of lay-ups and slam dunks, but it encourages ball movement and offensive creativity. This is clearly a worthwhile trade-off to make. The pace of the twenty minute halves, the better ball movement required to score, and the general, more team-centered game is partly why the college game has become more popular.

Focusing on one-on-one play and big stars has made the NBA popular with the young, but this is part of the reason the league is increasingly scorned by older Americans. The inability to play the team game is also why the United States only barely earned a bronze in last year's Olympics.
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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Political Reality Check

Let's say that the Republicans in the Senate are successful and are able to get a ruling that filibusters cannot be used during confirmation votes on judges. (This is the so-called nuclear option.) Do we really think that the Democrats will then change this back when they are in power? By the same token, obviously the Republicans would not be making the same complaints if things were reversed. These points usually are not argued out of principle but instead out of political expediency. That does not surprise me. What surprises me is that both parties seem to believe that the status quo won't change. The reality is that some day the Republicans will again be in the minority and some day the Democrats will again be in the majority. A party's power is never permanent in our democracy. The ones in charge always wear out their welcome eventually

In general, I am getting tired of all this hate that people have in the political arena. Every event, no matter how apolitical, suddenly becomes a rallying cry for the extremes in each party. People cling to their party as being the absolute judge of truth. It seems like no one ever wants to calmly discuss the merits of some issue. Instead, people work harder on making sure that every policy minutia does not conflict with the pure ideology of their party. Nostalgia often clouds our judgment, but it seems like it used to not be this way. It seems like there was much more efforts for compromise and consensus in the past. Apparently I missed the memo that proved that everyone in the other party has only bad intentions, could not possibly believe in what they are saying and are pure evil... Oh well... at least my Orioles have won four out of five against the Yankees.

Related:

Let's Talk Judiciary
More on Judicial Appointments
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Friday, April 15, 2005

Happy Tax Day!!

As a country, we apparently spend 6.6 billion hours on doing our taxes and responding to the tax code. So let me do the math here... that's about 22-23 hours for every man woman and child in this country. Does no one else see anything wrong with this fact? Half of a work week is spend each year by a person to simply respond properly to bureaucracy. Why don't people object to this fact?

Much of preparing for taxes comes from all of this documenting you have to do for the government. This was the first year where I really had stock sales to mention, but instead of just get some total figures from my brokerage company, I had to enter in each stock sale by hand. That process ended up taking about six to seven hours alone, despite the fact that I was using TurboTax.

Then there are the deductions where we run into the most problems with the tax codes. Because the government does not want to look too big and actually spend money directly, it masks its size by giving away tax money for things it deems desirable. K Street in Washington has become this lobbying Mecca in large part due to all of the myriad deductions it pushes congressmen to enact. Others may accept this reality, but it is just such a blatant waste of our money and time, that I think we need to change things.

We need to either go to a value-added-tax like they have in most European countries or we need to have a purely simple income-tax code. (Basically in the VAT, each stage of production has to pay a tax on inputs, this eventually gets filtered down to the final sales price.) If we are going to have a simple income-tax code, I would reduce the deductions to the following:

1. Charitable giving.
2. Business expenses.
3. Education expenses.

No more deductions of local taxes (why should the rest of the country finance spending down on behalf of your local community) and no more deductions on mortgages. Everything should be simple. Alas, I doubt things will ever change. Interestingly enough, the IRS claims that using tax-preparation software shaves about 70-80% of the time that it takes out to fill out those forms, yet people balk at either using the free services at home or paying the forty bucks for the full software. Go figure...
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Our Cars Ain't Our Bodies

People often use similar words when talking about body parts and car parts. Our cars have bodies, we have bodies, our cars have joints, we have joints, are car need fluids, we need fluids and on and on.

Isn't it interesting, though, that in order to keep our bodies in top shape, we have to work out? Basically, we need to use our bodies, not let them go to waste. At least we need to if we want to ensure our best health. With cars, it's different: the more we use a car, the more we shorten its lifespan. The mileage on a car often becomes more important than its chronological age. With people, the more we exercise our bodies and our minds, the better both end up being in the long run. We cheat chronological age by adding mileage to our bodies and minds, not the other way around. (Plastic surgery only addresses outward appearences, not internal health. Sorry about that...)

Of course, going too far in underutilizing a car and over excercizing a body seem to reverse this trend. I heard that if you leave a car in storage too long, you can run into problems. It is important for people who store their car long-term to have someone drive it once in awhile and make sure the fluids stay fresh. With people, if we over use our bodies we reverse the positive trend there as well. Think about it: if you jog too much on hard pavement, you are likely going to have knee problems down the line. Football players are getting plenty of exercise, but many of them die prematurely due to the heavy tool that their brand of exercise takes on them. Coal miners and other manual labors might run into bad-backs and arthritic-joints from all that heavy lifting in their vocation.

I guess, in the end, moderation is always the key. I mean, aren't scientists now saying that too much water is a bad thing for athletes? Pretty soon, they will be warning as about over-exposure to oxygen. Or have they done that already? Please let me know...

Yeah, look at the time of this post... this is the stuff that keeps me from getting a good night's sleep.
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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Brain Queefs

Is it morally wrong to get intentionally into the habit of "dropping anchor" while at work so that you have more free time at home? Those five-fifteen minutes add up...

While the roads in my county are terrible and has at least once give me a late-night flat tire, why is it spending so much money on counter-productive welfare programs? Why not spend more of that money on road repairs so both the roads get repaired and people actually have some work to do?
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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Committed Not Gone After All?

So perhaps I have burried one of my favorite new shows, "Committed", a little too prematurely. According to USA Today, it is certainly on the bubble, but at least one NBC executive believes that the show could thrive if given a better time on the network's schedule.

A show is helped if it fits a network's "brand" or reflects a new direction. Among questions asked by NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly: "Does it pull the right audience? Does it have critical support or buzz? Where's the show in its life cycle: Does it have years of growth ahead of it, or is it waning?"... Reilly is a fan of Committed, a romantic comedy that he thinks could flourish given the right time slot.

I am not sure why coming after "Scrubs" was such a bad time slot considering how the two shows target a similar demographic, but perhaps a better-rated lead in might help the show grow from its niche. Not to say that this flawed show equals Seinfeld in quality, but remember that it took a couple of years before Seinfeld secured a full season on NBC. The ratings for the show were initially atrocious: people did not know what to make of the show. However, once the show got long-term exposure and good word-of-mouth, it thrived and became one of the most popular shows ever.

Committed's replacement, "The Office", seems rather disappointing to me. It is good enough for me to sit through it while I do other things, but it is not a show that I make a point of seeing. The show is rather depressing and the boss, played by Steve Carrell, is a little too over-the-top. He lacks the limited hyperbole of Gary Cole's character in Office Space. It is much easier to see one's boss in Lumbergh than it is to see him in The Office's Michael Scott. I understand that the original British version has a cult following, but I have not seen more the glimpse of that show so I cannot speak to its quality.

UPDATE: USA Today has opened up their annual "Save Our Shows" Survey if you want to put in a vote to save Committed or any other show that is at risk at being cancelled.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Japan Beats America on TV Viewing

While America rings in as the nation the watches the second most amount of television, apparently Japan has a higher per capita average. At least that is according to a newly released study by something called "Eurodata TV Worldwide."

I have a couple things to say about this:

Doesn't this disprove the whole TV-watching is why our students are underperforming those in other nations since Japan is watching more TV and doing better?

(Dumb hippies! Don't you see that it is actually your "let's learn about other cultures waste of time stuff" that is hurting our children and not the wonderful invention of the television?)

Do Americans watch more TV than most other countries simply because our shows are just so much better?

(I have seen what they have in other countries and it's a combination of American shows and crap.)
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Driving Gripes

From Wednesday night to Monday evening, I had to do a bunch of driving for personal reasons. It wasn't as fun as it used to be. A couple of months ago, I had a rather nasty accident that has left me a little nervous when it comes to driving. I do not drive like an old lady, but highway driving has lost its former laid-back nature. Now I am constantly worried about something new going wrong with my car and someone doing something strange enough on the highway to trigger a terrible accident. So with this heightened awareness, I am noticing some annoying things that you will often encounter on the interstate.

Crazy Tractor-Trailer Drivers: These are the guys who pass on the farthest left lane on an eight lane highway. These folks will not shift into lower gears going down a steep hill but instead will ride their momentum down the hill to an inch of your back bumper. The worst of this behavior appears at the end of a traffic jam as they try to make up for lost time.

Pick-Up Trucks with Random Crap in Their Bed Secured Only by Used Chewing Gum: I swear that about 10% of highway accidents must be caused by this situation. Random crap falling out of pick-up trucks is scary and you only have a split second to decide whether the item is innocuous enough for you to drive over it or is dangerous enough that it is worth swerving to avoid. It would be nice if people driving these trucks would have the decency to either tie their stuff down securely or at least keep the tailgate closed.

The Right-Side Racers: These are the folks who despite driving at about fifty miles an hour when you approach them, suddenly feel their manhood threatened as you overtake them and proceed to race you. It is rather annoying behavior if you ask me.

Reckless Assholes: These bastards are the ones who weave out in and out of traffic with a only an inch or two margin of error, drive on the wrong side of 100 miles an hour and switch multiple lanes at a time. What bothers me about this is although they might risk a speeding ticket once in awhile, the accidents they cause usually do not involve them. Often they are already far away from a pack when a hard brake or swerve due from a car responding to their weaving triggers a chain reaction and a brutal accident.
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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Way Too Bored Today

I'm sorry, I know everyone has probably already seen this, but I have to say that this is pure genius: GGG-GMail! Not quite sure if what you put in the login boxes actually goes anywhere, but don't be silly enough to put in your real GMail login and password.

Apparently, Get Fuzzy got a little raunchy the other day and was censored. Others have broken this awhile back. Personally, I came across this info by happening upon this blog. Anyway, take a look at the original Get Fuzzy and the cleansed Get Fuzzy.

While I'm at it, I might as well throw up the classic Maya Angelou Froot Loops poem from SNL.

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Is Spreading STDs Criminal?

According to the Smoking Gun, a woman is suing star Falcons QB Michael Vick for giving her herpes.

I ended up getting sucked into a long discussion about this case when someone brought it up. But the specifics of this particular incident aside, how much responsibility should someone have when he spreads a STD to his partner?

My feeling is that there is no liability if the infected person was not aware of his own health, but if he does know that he is infected with any dangerous disease it is his responibility to inform his partner. If he does not, he should be charged with some form of assault, battery or murder depending on the severity of the disease. My understanding is that knowingly infecting someone is some sort of crime in most states but is not taken as seriously and is often not prosecuted.

In the end I am left with a few questions.

Does the obligation of informing a partner only exist when we are talking about HIV?

Is herpes benign enough to absolve someone from informing his partner? Does the fact that it is uncurable make a big difference?

When are civil penalties more appropriate? When are criminal penalties more appropriate?

In the end, I think one of the main reasons we continue to have a high rate of STDs is that when people get infected they don't feel the need to tell any suspecting sexual partners.

Certainly, you have some obligation to use protection, but blaming you for getting infected by someone who knew it would happen, seems very unfair. It is like blaming someone for being robbed because he did not have an alarm system installed in his home. Oh and if you have Herpes, HDate.com allows you to find people in a similar predicament.
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Salaries of College-Educated Women

According to Time Magazine, college-educated white women apparently earn much less on average than comparable black and Asian women.

$43,656 Average salary of college-educated Asian-American women in 2003

$41,066 Average salary of college-educated black American women in 2003

$37,761 Average salary of college-educated white American women in 2003


I'm not really sure why this would be the case. It could be due to different life choices that each sort of woman might be more likely to make due to cultural or social norms. Perhaps this comes from the higher salaries that are found in large cities where black and asian women are more highly represented.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Sports Riffs

I think people are being overly-critical about the fact that baseball does not yet test for human growth hormone (HGH). Apparently a blood test is needed to test for that performance enhancer. It is understandable that the players association would want to avoid that kind of privacy invasion. It is easy to see who is using HGH, however. Seriously, you just need look at the players whose heads are suddenly growing despite being almost middle-aged.

We have had one major league baseball player already suspended over steroids and there is news today that thirty-eight minor league players have just been suspended as well. I remember one of the players on this list, Robert Machado, from his stint as a backup catcher for my Orioles last year. The guy was a sub-200 hitter with absolutely no power. Steroids appear to be used not only to build muscle, but to increase endurance and speed recovery from injury.

***

I just watched an NFL Europe game on the NFL Network for about ten minutes. It is amazing how boring football can be when the quality of play is lower and when you have no interest at all in the outcome. I had to wait forever to even see a glimpse of fans in the stands. Finally, I found out that only about nine thousand fans had made it to game in Berlin. For those who do not know much about the league, it has six teams and now has five of its teams located in Germany. The league hemorrhages money for the NFL, but Paul Tagliabue is obsessed with trying to force the NFL down the throats of the rest of the world. Soccer and the MLS has a better chance to catch on in America...
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The Next Pope

Many have speculated that we might have the first “black pope” as Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze is a viable candidate for the papacy. It sounds right, but the only problem is that this assumption is wrong. What people often forget is that Christianity began and grew at the height of the Roman Empire. As the religion spread from Judea (present-day Israel) it grew throughout the entire Roman Empire which included North Africa. Many of the first great Christian thinkers were from North Africa and the Christianity practiced in Ethiopia and Egypt dates back from this time. Knowing this, maybe it should not be surprising that there has previously been a “black” (African) pope. Pope St Victor was pope from 189-199 AD. According to Mark Steyn of London's Daily Telegraph, he was the one who decided to celebrate Easter on a Sunday.
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Monday, April 04, 2005

Inferno II, Doubleshot

Alright, so due to continued laptop issues and a late shift at work last week, I missed the Inferno, but I'm all caught up this week and raring to go.

So last week's episode wasn't hugely eventful. Robin and Tina were fighting for life savers so they wouldn't have to go to the Inferno. I love how these people act so fired up to go to the Inferno and then pansy out during the next mission.

In this mission, a chopper dropped fake cash on them and whoever collected the most would win. Everyone on Tina's team stuffed her shirt so she could win the life saver. A couple of girl's on Robin's team joined suit, although I think it was easier to stuff Robin's shorts as her bra was already quite low on space. The catch? You had only 5 minutes to count your money afterwards. If it was wrong, it didn't count. So of course Tina and Robin both miscounted. These players are not known for their skills in math. I was actually amazed that they were only off by 10 or less dollars. That sucks.

So Tina and Robin face off in the Inferno, and predictably Robin loses. They had to overcome being shackled to weights that measured half their bodyweight to grab a key and unlock the shackles. I thought perhaps Robin's boobs would give her an edge and bring her upperbody closer to the ground, but alas, she could not move. Robin gave a nice little speech about her good guy team and went on her merry way.

The episode ended with Beth and Veronica in one of the lamest fights I've ever seen. Veronica is sporting a "Future MILF" shirt. YOU ARE NOT CUTE! I can't stand this girl. What a Britney wannabe. She's short, she's slutty, and she's shady, and I just don't like her. Not that Beth's great either, but Veronica's much more annoying. She says something to the effect of "your ugly face does not deserve this conversation." Ouch, good one Veronica. You sure told her. Man, that has to be one of the lamest digs I've ever heard.

So after all the drama Beth just up and leaves, and that's the end of that. Cut to the "clue," which I wouldn't even really call a clue b/c they don't tell you anything besides what to wear and where to be, at the hot tub. Brad reads that they have to meet at some port. Dan says "A port, that means we'll be going in the ocean." Very good Dan! You get a cookie! Oy.

So they get to the "port," and I swear I completely cannot understand the explanation of the rules no matter how many times they say it. Something about switching clothing from one end of a line to another while on a balance beam. I get a headache just thinking about it. Dan steps out onto the beam and complains about how wobbly it is. Could he be more gay please? No really, just turn it up a little Dan b/c we couldn't already tell.

So Dan comes up w/ a plan to jump into the water so he'll be at the other end of the line (again, something with the rules) and can just pass of his clothes. Yeah, one problem. Wet clothes stick! Thus the bad asses lose. I swear half the time I don't know which team is which. I mean why is Dan a bad ass. He's not threatening. And why is Julie a good guy? She's the shadiest person out there! Again, I have issues w/ the teams this year.

So the good guys win their second in a row, and it's Mike and Karamo into the Inferno. Karamo bitches of course and tells CT to kiss his black ass. CT says not to play the race card b/c it's played out. I have to say that was hilarious, esp. after having to sit through Karamo in Philly. Abe has his usual temper tantrum b/c everyone's accusing him of having an alliance with Mike. Alliance...or crush? Hmmm...

More to come next week. Thoughts?
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Fun Facts About Daylight Savings Time

1. First was proposed in a 1907 pamphlet by Englishman, William Willett.

2. Was first implemented in 1916 by the German government in the midst of World War I. Great Britain quickly followed suit and added their own “war time” system to their calendar.

3. First began in the United States in 1918 at the same time Congress set up standard time zones across the country. DST was quickly repealed in 1919 because it was unpopular among the majority of Americans who already got up at the crack of dawn for farming and other tasks.

4. From 1942-1946 DST was brought back to the United States. The current system has been in place since 1966.

5. Power consumption is reduced by about 1% from right before to right after clocks are set one hour ahead.

6. The car accident rate increases and work productivity declines due to adjusting sleep patterns during the clock change.

7. The barbeque industry, the golfing industry and Major League Baseball are among the supporters of DST.

8. Some have proposed keeping DST standard throughout the entire year or increasing the change to two hours during the summer months.

Further Reading/Sources:

Wikipedia
Saint Louis Post-Dispatch's Article on Subject
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Sunday, April 03, 2005

More on Splitting-Up New York State

As many of you probably already know, I feel that upstate New York is broken economically, socially and politically. In a post I wrote a couple of months ago, I argued that that the region's best hope was to become its own state and decide its own fate. Well, I decided to seek out related opinions on the subject via the handy-dandy web site Technorati.com

Ambition, Impatience and Sloth favors a split of New York from a New York City perspective: On this blog, a poster named David agrees with a New York Press columnist who argues that NYC and the surrounding metropolitan area would benefit from a government more in tune with local concerns. In fact, he almost seems to want New York City to separate itself from all of America, not just upstate New York. Therefore, New York City could be like how Hong Kong used to be.

Splitting New York State into two states is far-fetched enough as it is, so thinking that enough people hate their own country to leave the United States is even more ludicrous. Thankfully, I think David is just engaging in some bitter hyperpole over the results of 2004's elections.

Over at Brendoman.com, Luis wonders what name a new upstate New York state might have: I figure a good list of potential names would include Niagara, West York, Hudson, or Adirondack. A poster on his site also argues that upstate New York is actually quite Democratic. This is wrong. While many of the large cities might vote for Democrats normally, the surrounding suburbs, the small towns and the rural areas are much more Republican than downstate. This is why Pataki and D'Amato were able to win statewide office: they did very well in the more conservative upstate areas. I'm not saying that upstate New York is like Utah, but it certainly isn't like Massachusetts either.

Unfutz brings up some interesting facts about the whole dividing New York State debate: He reminds us that the Norman Mailer/Jimmy Breslin somewhat unserious-ticket ran with a platform that included making New York City its own state. Also apparently there was a show on NYC's PBS station called the "51st State" awhile back.

If the people in the city feel that they would be better off managing their own affairs, more power to them. Their hunger for more government services and higher taxes would be better fed by a new state made up of NYC, Westchester and Long Island. They can then enjoy the 3.5 billion dollars they think they are losing to upstate. New York City can also try to find some way to get affordable electricity after they close down Indian Point and also stop getting cheap electricity from the "hicks" up near Niagara Falls. Upstate New York can then enjoy more responsive government, competitive presidential elections, lower taxes and its own identity.

So, basically everybody wins! Hopefully, residents in both areas will soon realize this fact. I am not going to be holding my breath until this happens, however...
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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II 1920-2005

As you are probably all aware, the Pope died today at the age of eighty-four. Whether or not you agreed with all of his positions, you must at least respect his kindness and the courage of his convictions. Coming from humble beginnings while growing up in war-torn Poland, Karol Wojtyla turned family tragedy into a calling to serve mankind. He was the first non-Italian pope selected in 455 years. While many younger people only remember his recent frailty, when he was selected to be pope at the age of 58, his energy and enthusiasm was considered a refreshing change for the ancient office. This Polish Pope, who had lived under both the tyranny of Fascism and Communism, played a key role in the peaceful democratic revolutions that occurred first in Poland and then in the rest of Eastern Europe. Throughout all of this, he did not strive to impose Catholicism on the rest of the world, only hoping that all of humanity, even those behind the Iron Curtain, would have freedom of faith.

He cared deeply about rebuilding the bridges that had been burned between the Church and other faiths whether these other faiths be Christian or not. He helped to spark a better relationship between the Church and the scientific community by accepting the theory of evolution.

While many in the Western World slipped into living only for pleasure and convenience, the Pope stayed firm and spoke out for sacrifice and character. While others sought to cheapen life and children and make them only into commodities and accessories, the Pope was a constantly advocating to keep life sacred. While some mocked his recent physical suffering, he cherished the opportunity to show grace and humility to the rest of the world.

When this man was almost killed by a Turkish assassin, he reached out to the man and forgave and befriended him. In the past few days, the man who brought John Paul to the brink death, said that he was now praying for the man he called "brother."

With forgiveness, Pope John Paul II reaches out to Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who had tried to kill him only two years earlier


His opinions against the death penalty, abortion and war were unpopular had critics on both the right and the left. I will say that I am not Catholic and at times I disagreed with many of the things the man said and believed. Nevertheless, today I sadly mourn this man who lived for others and not just himself; who lived for conviction, not political expediency; and who always held life, grace, forgiveness and humility above all else.

God Bless You, Karol.

His help in ending the tyranny of Communism in Poland and beyond.

CNN's Biography. This is very much worth the time to read.
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You Are What You Drive, At Least in the Political Sense

The New York Times had an article yesterday that talked about how many brands and types of cars are more heavily driven by one end of the political spectrum than by the other. At least this is according to a recent survey conducted by Scarborough Research, a NYC market research firm.

Unsurprising result: Republicans are much more likely to drive almost every American brand of car. Democrats are much more likely to drive foreign car brands. (Apparently although the Democratic base includes union labor, the rest of the party would rather support lower-paid workers in the United States or workers in other parts of the world.)

Surprising Result: The one American car brand that has more Democratic owners than Republican owners is Pontiac.

Unsurprising Result: The most Republican cars include the Ford F-150 and the Lincoln Town Car while the most Democratic cars included the Toyota Prius and the Infiniti G35.

Surprising Result: Owners of the Mini Cooper were about equally split between Republicans and Democrats. Apparently neither party has a monopoly at being exceedingly pretentious.

Interesting Tid Bit: Democrats are much more likely to express their political opinions via bumper stickers, especially if they own a Saturn, a Honda or a Toyota. Republicans, although less likely to express their political opinions on their cars, are more likely to express them on a pick-up truck.

From the Article:


Some of these differences have more to do with geography than personal politics. Democrats are concentrated in port cities with more links to Europe and Asia, making them more open to foreign car companies. Republicans are more likely to be living in the heartland, where there's room for bigger cars and a tradition of loyalty to the American cars built in nearby factories.

But car buyers are also responding to the political images that come with some cars. Some foreign car companies have marketed cars as environmentally friendly, and some have at times focused on parts of the Democratic base. Saab and Subaru were the first and most visible to aim advertising at gay drivers.

Midsize and large American cars skew Republican, and so, of course, do big American pickup trucks. That may have something to do with American car companies marketing themselves through one of the great symbols of Republicanism, Nascar, which is enormously popular in the red states.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

What's the Deal With Get Fuzzy and Foxtrot Today?

If you look at today's Foxtrot and Get Fuzzy comics you will notice that they have very similar content. Both involve a oujia board and both involve the oujia board telling the user to hurt the person asking questions. Is this an homage to something? Perhaps to a cartoonist who died? Does it have something to do with it being April Fool's Day? Please let me know!

You can access today's Foxtrot here and today's Get Fuzzy here. Note that if you look at these links after April 1st, it may show a different comic. If this is the case, just go back to the April 1st edition for each one and you will see what I mean.
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Social Security Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be

It completely amazes me that there is such resistance to changing Social Security. My guess now is that Bush’s efforts will fail only due to personal hatred for the man, fear of the unknown, general ignorance of how social security works or a combination of the three. For years, I have believed in the idea of changing social security from a transfer program to at least partly include a fully-funded pension program. Let me just break this whole situation down, how I see it.

1.Democrats and their allies claim that Social Security is fine until 2041. This is a bit misleading. It assumes that there will be predictable demographic changes: life-expectancy will continue to grow only at a slow and steady pace, and that birth-rates will not decline significantly. Assuming both of these things, especially the former, is a bit dubious.

2.The 2041 figure also assumes that the government can afford to pay out all of the IOUs that are owed to Social Security. The program is currently running a surplus up until around 2017. Currently, as the surplus comes in, the money is being spent on other parts of the government leaving IOUs to the trust fund. So in 2017, the IOUs start to come due. What does that mean? Either cuts in other government spending or higher taxes. Both options offer negative consequences to our economy. Twelve years from now we will face this problem. That’s far away and not something we need to worry about?

3.Social Security hardly offers any real return on investment. All it does is move money from one group of people, the young, to another group of people, the old. Any increase in funds that the seniors receive comes on the whims of our laws. There is no wealth building here. Higher payouts depend on increases in the workforce (which is no longer happening) or increase in productivity (which is not a very high percentage), or sucking more money out of American workers.

4.Allowing for personal accounts would allow the working poor the join the investor class. Why is this so bad? A lot of the attacks on this part seem to focus on the idea that people are too stupid to pick one out of five different kinds of investments. This is rank liberal paternalism at its worst.

5.The current system transfers money from those with lower life expectancies to those with higher life expectancies. Therefore, blacks transfer money to whites, men transfer their money to women, and so forth. Personal accounts allow people to keep their own money and if they die, it gets transferred to their survivors, not to certain demographic groups among the general population.

Critics might point out that there will be a lot of pain in increased borrowing if we transition to personal retirement accounts as a part of Social Security. I do not deny this, but this would be short-term borrowing freeing ourselves from the albatross around our necks: the national pyramid scheme, Social Security.
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