March 30, 2007
I don't think we will ever, as a country, really like any elected President ever again. There's too much information out there now. The media covers every word they've ever said, and it's impossible for them to not have said hundreds of stupid things over the course of their life. And it all it takes is one for the populace to shun them. So, because of this, I will use this forum to occasionally remind us why all of our former Presidents sucked. It's not that we're entering a new age of folly. It's that we're finally able to witness the depravity of all men from up close.
March 29, 2007
March 28, 2007
So, when I first heard about the book, Freakonomics, I was very skeptical. I thought it would be a guy trying to peddle social issues based on wild correlations. I was wrong.
It's a very practical book regarding the downside of conventional wisdom, and the search for true, causal relationships between events. Frankly, it's about the power of incentive, and how social and economic problems can be looked at through this lens of true incentive to create possible solutions.
One thing that the author has gotten in trouble for mentioning over the past few years was a correlation he found with the Roe vs. Wade decision lowering crime rates in America.
Hold your initial reaction.
With legalized abortion causing less children to be born into poverty, and with crime tending to stem from economic poverty, this DOES make sense. It doesn't claim to make a moral decision, the point is finding the true causes.
And the author does clarify that turning that Roe vs. Wade correlation into a moral decision depends on how much you value the life of a fetus. For example, if a fetus is worth 0 lives, then abortion is a fairly practical solution for helping the fight against poverty. If a fetus is worth 1 life, then the 1.5 million abortions a year are far worse than the crime that these abortions eliminate. If we're trying to figure out the equal tradeoff, we would have to believe that roughly 500 abortions is the moral equivalent of preventing one homicide.
Fascinating stuff. It's making me very interested in the ideas of governing through incentives as a whole.
March 27, 2007
March 26, 2007
So, the film Waking Life broaches this subject, but never answers the question that often puzzles me. Have you ever had a dream where you're at a concert, and you're hearing this band that you never heard of before, and they're playing a song that you never heard of before, and it's awesome? When you wake up, you realize that it was just a dream. But, who wrote that song? Who's writing the dialogue of the other characters in your dream? Who's thinking up these incredibly intricate worlds and ideas that you're interacting with in your dream? Are we all crazy and brilliant, and need to figure out a way to release these ideas when we're awake? Or do we channel these ideas from somewhere that we can only enter when unconscious?
March 23, 2007
If we didn't have solid and dashed yellow lines painted all over the expressways, driving would be chaotic, crashes would be constant. Take Wal-Mart for instance. No cart lanes, and that's why you get the lady with three kids sitting with her cart in the middle of the aisle, going backwards from everyone else, oblivious to others around her.
Now, if yellow paint solved our highway problem, and it's evident that yellow paint could increase the logistical efficiency in our supermarkets as well, perhaps yellow paint could regulate our personal behavior as well.
Take Joe GunToter for instance, "la dee dah, I think I'll go shoot my neighbor, let's go get my handgun...huh? what's this?"
If we force handguns to be stored in cases painted similarly to no-parking zones, perhaps our psychees would innately understand that this is probably not a good idea, or at least we'd be scared of getting a ticket and bumping our insurance rates.
It's time we painted this nation yellow...and dashed on occasion.
March 22, 2007
I read a statistic yesterday that said that "roughly 50% of students walk away from their faith in God during college." Now, this is obviously a very loaded statistic, what does faith mean? what does walking away mean?
But, the easy conclusion that you could come to from this statistic is that once people became properly educated, they dismiss the childish superstitions of their youth. They're too smart for faith in what they can not see anymore.
But, for those of us who are confident in the existence of God, this is even more of a perplexing statistic, and makes us question the value of a college curriculum that closes the eyes to the things not of this world.
March 21, 2007
So, every idea that we contend upon on this blog, I often share with friends and family to engage even more differing views.
Yesterday I had two separate conversations with people. And while engaged in discussions, both of them made arguments using the exact phrases that you and I have come to as a result of discussions on this blog.
The argument had become theirs. They weren't using my phrasing to be funny. Neither was aware that they were "stealing" our words. It had become truth for them, and they no longer recognized it as an idea, but their own viewpoint.
I am telling you this not so much to glorify the discussions that we have here, but rather to say that the discussions you have anywhere do indeed matter. They do indeed change things. And whether or not you want to be one, you are a teacher.
March 20, 2007
People tend to buy this excuse. It seems like a pretty good rationalization. "I could either spend 20 bucks at the movie theater or $20 playing blackjack at the casino. It's all just entertainment."
However, if someone wanted to go to a stripclub with that same logic, the argument isn't as strong. That's because we tend to understand that the underlying moral failings behind a stripclub is 'lust'. However, we call the moral failing of a casino, 'gambling', when it's really 'greed' and 'jealousy'.
So, if you believe that the desire for money you didn't "earn" is wrong, and that risking your money on a game of chance that is not in your favor is stupid, then the next time someone says they're going gambling for entertainment, ask them if they would be just as happy playing cards at a buddy's house for no money. If not, then the gaming part isn't the recreation for that person. It's the quick possibility at wealth that's so entertaining.
March 19, 2007
I have a theory entitled: The Necessity of Transitional Art. And I would like feedback to see if it's making sense to anyone.
I think that transitional art is necessary to get to the really good stuff. Let's say you're a huge fan of the musical group, Wilco. You probably wouldn't have liked them when you were 7. Since you had never been exposed to anything like it before, it was strange and awkward, and therefore, unenjoyable to you. Back to Sesame Street sing-a-longs. But, then you hear the California Raisins, they lead you into MoTown, you start giving different radio dials a try. Matchbox 20, yeah, pretty catchy. That gets you into Ryan Adams. And then finally. You hear Wilco's album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. And you wonder where it's been your whole life.
I think the same transition takes place for everything.
Books: Nancy Drew - Lord of the Flies - Tolstoy.
Movies: Honey I Shrunk the Kids - The Sandlot - My Cousin Vinny - The Fugitive - The Godfather.
Food, clothing, knowledge, wisdom. It's all the same. Even though something may be great, it may take us a while to get there. So, instead of trying to argue that the Godfather is the best film of all time with someone who's not listening, let them borrow 'My Cousin Vinny' instead. They'll get there.
March 16, 2007
How do we reconcile instinct with evolution? I saw this flock of birds flying on the way to work, and it was absolutely spectacular. That 50 or so birds could fly absolutely in sync in these crazy patterns just floored me for some reason. "So, how do birds know how to follow the leader, and trade off, etc." "Well, that's instinct." Ok, well, if everything cool about animals is instinctual, then why is evolution necessary? Doesn't instinct, by nature, not require evolution?
March 15, 2007
So, there's a girl at my work who broke her leg skiing, and she's been walking around on crutches the last couple weeks. I was walking behind her the other day...slowly, and I had a sudden thought. If I pushed her down, it would be very hard for her to get back up. The lust I had over that absolutely venemous power kind of scared me. I think it's time for Big Brother to put me away, or at least make sure that I never get any REAL power.
March 14, 2007
They say you know you're starting to master a new language when you start to think in that language. I started learning Spanish by audiobooks during my 2-hour commutes, and after the first week (after which I assumed I'd be fluent), I tried to figure out what language I think in. My conclusion: I don't think in any language. I think based on emotion and the purest and humblest form of the id. I am more of an instinctual robot than a thoughtful intellectual expressing my curiosity in the tongues of Shakespearean sonnets. My stomach grumbles, I look around for a red-haired girl on a sign telling me that I can get a double-stack hamburger for a buck. No English necessary. No thinking at all, in fact.
March 13, 2007
So, trees are pretty cool, right? They take CO2 and turn it into O2. Awesome. Why can't we develop machines that can do that on a much larger scale? Then we can place these tall machines around the neighborhood, make them solar powered, paint them brown, and glue plastic leaves on them. Ten times the benefit of a real tree, with no annoying squirrels.
March 09, 2007
As I was eating (playing with) Runts yesterday afternoon and turning a banana piece and two orange pieces into a happy face, I realized that there might be an idea here. What if Runts or some other candy company released their candy in all sorts of different shapes? Not just banana crescents and the rest all circles. But, triangles, slivers, ovals, curves, etc. So, that kids could create designs and pictures with them before eating. The candy company could sell this high-fructose concoction as a total learning experience.
March 08, 2007
Here is a very inexpensive psychological test you can perform at your workplace that can bring you great pleasure. Requisite: the men's room needs to have urinals. Put a quarter in each of the urinals (This works better if there's that plastic grate preventing the quarter from getting flushed away). Then come back in a few hours and see if the quarter's there. (Even if you don't have the plastic grating there, it's still an interesting test, because the person will feel guilty for flushing money out of reach. However, you'll never get to find out if the quarter was swiped or merely flushed.)
Give it a try, and report your data. See if you work with a bunch of desperate sickos.
March 07, 2007
So, as a Chicago sports fan, when I see players come and go, I always assume it's for the best. The latest being, Thomas Jones, the most successful Bears rusher since Walter Payton (which doesn't say much) is now a N.Y. Jet, opening up the #1 slot in the Bears backfield for Cedric Benson. Now, I've never been a big TJ fan, and actually think that this might not be as bad of a thing as does the city of Chicago currently. But, do I think that just because I'm a fan of the Bears, and therefore, give the benefit of the doubt to the Bears Management. Similarly, when we move Cubbies around, and I disagree with a move, I say, "Well, they probably know what they're doing." Do I do that politically as well? If a guy I voted for makes a decision that seems ridiculous to me, do I jump to defend him too? Maybe I should stop giving people the benefit of the doubt.
March 06, 2007
So, the issue of the Chicago smoking ban came up yesterday. And I found myself on the minority side of the battle all throughout the day, unable to convince anybody of my viewpoint. Both sides of the argument were very well addressed on fellow contributor to this project, Jeff's blog, over a year ago. So, instead of starting the debate at ground zero, read those comments, then state your thoughts. After a day straight of debating this, I think it comes down to a few simple points. Is a bar a private establishment? And if so, should the city be able to tell that owner that people can not do in that establishment something that is not against the law? By the way, the ban is already underway, so it's not about stopping it. This is just a simple exercise in thought and fascism.
March 05, 2007
So, there's a lot of "global warming is a myth" rhetoric going around recently. Most of it is fairly unconvincing to me, even though it's very tempting for me to want to believe. But, this is the first piece of evidence I've read in a while that is actually fairly compelling - the fact that the planet Mars is experiencing a global warming of their own. A few months ago, I read an article that theorized that the sun was getting hotter, a process called 'global irradiance' and therefore, could be responsible for the majority of our warming pattern on Earth. Turns out that carbon dioxide "ice caps" on Mars have been diminishing for the past three summers. Obviously, humans are not the source of this problem on Mars. Could it be that big flaming ball my bronzen skin worships?
March 02, 2007
So, Chevrolet has created a new concept car, The Volt, which can run solely on electricity, provided your commute is no longer than 40 miles round trip. If your trip is longer than 40 miles, the engine can switch to running on gasoline/E85/biodiesel for the remainder of the drive. And if your trip is very long, while the engine is running on gasoline, your battery is being recharged and once recharged, will kick over and once again run the vehicle emission-free. At night, you can plug your vehicle into a standard 110-volt outlet to re"fuel".
Ok, so my gut reaction after reading this is, electricity probably costs more than gasoline. Well, Chevy approximates that a relative "gallon's worth of electricity" costs only $0.60. Wow, very impressive, even for living in Illinois under the price uncertainty of our current monopolistic electrical company.
Two questions that go unanswered, however, are, "how much is the car?" and "how fast can i accelerate and top out at" when running on electricity? But, if the answer to the former is even close to the current prices for hybrids, we may have a future winner in our sights.
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