Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A question for those who like research

Just wondering. Is there any definitive answer to the question "what is the first recorded date we know with certainty?" For about three hundred years back, recordkeeping has been good enough so that we can say something happened on an exact date. Or to be more precise, we can say something happened exactly this many days ago.

But the further you go back, the more you delve into things just happening in a given year. Further and further back, you get centuries, eons, etc. Just wondering how far solid knowledge goes back.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Am I on fucking Mars

I just noticed this quote at Digby's site. I'd seen it before, and just sort of passed it off as crazy George W. talk. Take a gander:

THE PRESIDENT: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it. (Laughter.)

So, I read it again, just for old times' sake. And I start to have this weird feeling. I start to say to myself "surely, I must be reading it wrong. Surely, he's making an advanced technical argument that I just can't follow" as will occassionally happen when Michael Kinsley starts throwing advanced numbers at me.

Because, surely, there can be no way that such utter incomprehensible nonsense is coming out of the mouth of the President of the United States. The cognitive dissonance is immense. The first place my mind went was that certainly it must be my own failure to understand. Because the concept that the system could be so broken is too hard to grasp.

And then I started thinking, "Hey, I could've done better than that." And that's when I realized, "I have done better than that." Or at least on par with it. Do you recognize the language he's using? We've all seen it before. This is standard, college blue-book bullshit. Look at the similarities, the rephrasing of the question, the jumping from one topic to another mid-sentence as you think of it. This is the shit I'd write when I hadn't been to class all semester. I mean, if it was well-spun bullshit, that'd be one thing. At least someone had to put some thought into that. But now we've got a guy who knows as much as I do about Social Security as I do about "The Unbearable Lightness of Being".

My apologies to my professors in college. I didn't know it looked like that when I wrote it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cultural lag

Publius, over at Legal Fiction has a great post on the concept of "cultural lag" and how nationalism is an example of that. Whether we like it or not, the new world order is here. The question is how bumpy it's going to be before we figure it out.

As just an editorial. Publius is one of my favorite bloggers out there. In the top three at least. And not a clear number one only because his/her day job seems to keep him from posting more than once a day. Make him/her (I'm pretty sure it's a him), but it is the Internet after all...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I've decided to start a feature (look at that! My first feature.). It concerns a particular pet peeve of mine: editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez of the LA Times. I will say right off the bat that I don't agree with his politics one whit, but that's not why I don't like him. I don't like him because I think he's a terrible editorial cartoonist. He has no sense of humor whatsoever. Maybe humor isn't an essential skill for a "serious" cartoonist, but a sense of irony is. And I believe he's lacking more in irony than he even is in humor.

My usual reaction to a Ramirez cartoon is almost always "okay, your point is quite clear, but couldn't you have just stated that in a ten word sentence. Isn't a picture supposed to be worth a thousand words?"

So we begin. Hopefully, yesterday's picture has already been posted to the blog. Let's take a look, shall we? (By the way, perhaps a lawyer friend can tell me if that's cool before anybody notices. Hint, hint.)

I have to give Ramirez credit this time. The premise is a little more complex than I'm used to from him. "Molesters are predators and will always be predators, therefore you can never take your eyes off of them. Even if they've served their time." Very good, Mr. Ramirez. Your picture was worth 24 words.

But onto further discussion... (all ratings are out of 10)

Humor: 3 (I was going to give it an N/A, but it looks like he is actually attempting for some levity. He just fails.)
Artwork: 8 (The guy sure knows how to draw. Scary tiger, indeed.)
Irony: 4 (Wow. Ramirez, I picked the wrong week to limn you. Wow. I detect a faint hint of the ironic. We should be afraid of dangerous predators, but we're not. That is so the opposite of what you would expect.)

And then the political question...
Well, honestly, the whole child molester thing is an ugly situation in general. It does seem like something you usually can't "fix." But then again we tend to tell ourselves we're a society who's not in the business of locking people up indefinitely. So what to do? What to do? Wait a minute, let's look to Ramirez's own work to answer our question. Would you look at that. The tiger is on a leash! Perhaps the leash is what makes this tiger different from a tiger just out in the wild. I don't really know who the guy holding the leash is supposed to represent, but since he's wearing glasses, I'll assume he's an effete liberal. But are liberals really saying that former sex offenders are nothing to worry about? If we are, I'd love to know who said it.

So, thank you Michael Ramirez. Our first day, and already I'm impressed. It's taken me a lot more words than I'd budgeted to describe your awfulness. Maybe next time, though, choose a harder topic and quit stuffing the straw man. It looks like he's ready to pop.

You go, Ramirez! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Athens or Sparta?

This might actually get me into a little trouble, but I'm gonna say it anyway.

I will agree that even though the premise is obviously false that "all men [humans, more appropriately] are created equal," it is better for civilization if we look at it that way. Not to put to fine a point on it, but some people are short, some are tall, some are thin, etc. I firmly support that in the eyes of society and the law everyone is viewed as equal, but I don't think we need to base it in the authority of a Creator who has made everyone equal. Everyone is different and, shall we say, separate from one another. And separate is inherently unequal. (My apologies to the butchering of Brown v. Board of Education, but I think you get my point.)

But that's not really my question. My question is that while I believe all people should be treated equally, does the same logic apply to cultures? More to the point, are certain cultures inherently better than others? Note, that I'm in no way suggesting ethnicities or anything inherent in one's DNA. I'm talking more about the organizational structure of a society and the behavior/outcomes that that produces. Often this is drawn on ethnic lines, but not always. Basically, it's my hypothesis that culture, to a limited degree, is a matter of choice. Because of that small factor of choice, is it possible/acceptable to establish a heirarchy of cultures according to where they fall on a scale of desirability? Of course, I suppose "desirability" is a fuzzy enough term that there's plenty of room for debate.

As an example, I'd put forth Athens and Sparta. Two very different cultures, but as far as I can remember from 10th grade history, ethnically identical. And also having the benefit of being far enough in the past that no one should really have any dog in this race.

So which is it? Athens, Sparta, or "not okay to choose between them"?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Is this a sign of a serious mental disturbance?

Well... is it? Answer me, dammit!

Another blog to check out

For those of you trolls who aren't Noisette, check out Noisette's blog. She's a hip, hip lady who happens to have a sweet name for a blog. I feel envy right now. Bile-like envy. Noisette. Why didn't I think of that. It's noisy but feminine. And a flower, to boot. Damn, am I inadequate. Type-B? What was I thinking. I'm not even sure if that's my blood type.

Holy fuck. Three posts in, and I've already determined I'm not good enough for the blogosphere. Pray for Mojo, indeed.

Apologies people

So I took the blog out for a test drive the other day, just to see what it could do. And, I'll admit it. I crashed. Long-winded, angry rants don't play so well in the cyberspace, I see. Well, back to the drawing board, I suppose.

Just wanted to get that out there. Maybe tomorrow I'll delve into the case against fruit. No, not tomorrow. That's a Christmas topic.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Soaking my feet in the bullshit

I’ve spent a lot of time (eh, ten minutes or so) thinking about what to write about in this here blog. It’s tough. Seems like people have the political angles covered pretty well. Culture, well, I don’t really give a shit about culture so that’s out. Spectator sports? I’ll get to that later. Video games? Oh, don't worry, all in due time. Alcohol? Hmm, maybe that would be the solution. Probably not at work, though.

Aha, here we go. Something that I really hate. Some of you, dear friends, may have heard this before. It's a passion of mine. Or maybe an anti-passion. But I thought I might work out the kinks with a topic I'm familiar wtih. A topic that is perhaps the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on human civilization (no, not religion, although some have made a pretty good case on that front. Perhaps later, George Carlin.) I am, of course, speaking of fashion. The single biggest waste of human industry the world has ever known. The utter pointlessness of it confounds me. It makes my head want to explode. How the entire planet (save for those who can't afford the luxury of this ruse) has bought into a system of planned obsolescence that serves no purpose other than to line the pockets of people who work in the fashion industry. I mean, Jesus, at least oil makes your car go.

I mean, let's think about it. Clothes, as they were first conceived, have an amazing system built in to tell you when they need to be replaced. They either stop fitting (as is the case with children and fat people) or they fall apart. But somehow Big Fashion has convinced the world that every year they need entirely new clothes. Every single year, and sometimes sooner, an aribtrary committee somewhere in Paris or Milan decides what clothes are going to work this year and which ones aren't. Invariably, whatever clothes worked last year, for some reason don't work this year. Which is silly because it takes a lot longer than a year for clothes to get holes in them. Unless you're wearing silk. That I can buy. But I would then advice you not to wear as much silk. It's a bad investment.

But people buy into this. One of my favorite lines is that "It's a way of showing my personality." Wow. Okay, sure. That's one way to show your personality. Another way would be to, I don't know, develop a personality. And subsequently display that personality when engaging in conversation with other human beings. Personally, I don't need to fucking know who you are from a hundred yards away. And if you're hoping your clothes are going to tell me something, they can really only explain one thing, "I like to waste money." Which is not, in and of itself, a terrible thing to say about a person. But it's really all you're advertising.

I also like the convention that certain things don't "go" with other things. Like brown and blue or some shit like that. I don't even fucking know. And people hew to these rules as if they don't change from year to fucking year. Some would say, "No. There are some rules that never get broken. It's all about the color wheel. Certain complexions look better with other colors." Uh huh. I might actually follow you down that line of reasoning for a bit because I really don't know or care about it, but sure, I'll let you have it. That is until we hit the fucking eighties. 'Cause in the eighties, none of those rules seemed to apply, unless neon peach suddenly found it's way next to neon lime green on the color wheel. Some would say, "That's not fair. That's an aberration, like fascism or the Carter Administration." Fair enough. People do go crazy from time to time. But I don't know if you've looked around in a little while, but the eighties are on their way back. Fool me once... you know the rest.

And just in case there were any doubts about the arbitrary nature of fashion, let's talk about the most important holiday in the entire world of fashion. Labor Day. 'Cause apparently, you can't fucking wear white after Labor Day. Somehow, the sun changes color and white doesn't look so good, I guess. Anybody want to explain that fucking rationale to me? Anybody? I challenge you to explain that unbelievably arbitrary rule to me using any philosophers you want throughout all of history. Even the rules of religion make more sense. At least "don't eat pork" came about at a time when pork could kill you.

Okay, sure. Why am I so upset? I mean, so what if people are enjoying this little game of bullshit? So what if it's a couple hundred billion dollars pointlessly spent every year? Sure, that would be totally fine. The part that really pisses me off. Gets up my ass, if you will. Is the fact that 'cause everybody else is fucking involved in this. That means I have to, too. It means people judge you because you're wearing blue instead of wearing black. So in order to exist in this world, I have to spend my hard earned dollars on something I don't need. Something I know I don't need. But I wind up needing because everybody else thinks I need it. Fucking bastards. But then if you don't care (and I'm not talking about people who spend five hours in a goddamned thrift store to show they don't care. Have you listened to nothing I've said?) you get labled an iconoclast. I wouldn't really mind the moniker of iconoclast; there are worse things in the world. But that's not really me. I'm a conformist. And I'm fucking lazy. And it shouldn't be this hard to conform.

So it begins

So much space and so little to say...