Friday, February 06, 2009

Reminder - "Science is a model (i.e. interpretation) of reality, not reality itself."

From comments here - Signing off - Boing Boing

The Keene Act & YOU (1977).

"Government PSA on behalf of the House Committee on Un-American Activities."

You know, these viral vids for Watchmen are actually getting pretty wicked awesome.

Previously - "...ten years of Dr Manhattan."

You can't stop the signal.

You just can't.

IRAN: A Nation Of Bloggers from ayrakus on Vimeo.

Via Hit & Run > "A Revolution Within the Revolution" - Reason Magazine:
"This is a great illustration of Clay Shirky's point that online tools which seem frivolous in America can be used for deadly serious purposes abroad."

CSI is nonsense. Of course. - "Forthcoming NAS Study May Shake Up Forensics System."

Hit & Run > Forthcoming NAS Study May Shake Up Forensics System - Reason Magazine:
"A forthcoming study from the National Academy of Sciences is expected to send shockwaves through the criminal justice system.
People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting. The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court...
Legal experts expect that the report will give ammunition to defense lawyers seeking to discredit forensic procedures and expert witnesses in court. Lawyers could also use the findings in their attempts to overturn convictions based on spurious evidence. Judges are likely to use the findings to raise the bar for admissibility of certain types of forensic evidence and to rein in exaggerated expert testimony.

Law enforcement organizations have tried to derail the report nearly every step of the way.

...the NAS report is particularly critical of the FBI crime lab, long considered the gold standard in forensics, and whose technicians often advised state crime labs on best practices.

The problem with criminal forensics is the government monopoly on courtroom science in criminal trials. In too many states, forensic evidence is sent only to state-owned or state-operated crime labs. There's no competition, no peer review, and in some cases, crime lab workers either report to or can be pressured by prosecutors when test results don't confirm preexisting theories about how a crime may have occurred. This sort of bias can creep in unintentionally, or it can be more overt. But studies show it's always there. The only way to diminish is to bring competitors into the game, other labs who gain by revealing another lab's mistakes.

Every other area of science is steered by the peer review process. It's really unconscionable that criminal forensics—where there's so much at stake—has existed and evolved so long without it. The fact that so many people have been convicted solely based on pseudo-sciences like bite mark and hair and fiber analysis, for example, ought to scare the hell out of us."

Radley Balko brings the searing brilliance of perspective to Kellogg's dropping Michael Phelps.

The Agitator » Blog Archive » Kellogg Drops Phelps:
"The cereal company says,
…Phelps’s behavior—caught on camera and published Sunday in a British tabloid—is “not consistent with the image of Kellogg.”
This would be the same company that for decades has been encouraging children to start the day by inhaling sugar by the spoonful. It’s also the company that still proudly bears the name of the man who advocated yogurt enemas and pouring carbolic acid on the clitoris to prevent women from experiencing sexual pleasure.

Yes, it would be a shame to see a 14-time gold medalist’s bong hit tarnish the company’s image."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Warren Ellis, for the win.

Ah, the sheer beauty and brilliance of pointing out the religious nuttery.

Warren Ellis » T-Shirt Of The Day:
"Via some pack of creepy cultists:

The comments crack me up:
I’m so excited. As a former masturbator I plan to get every color. I want everyone to know power of Jesus is stronger than the devil’s urge to purge."

Advice of the day via Scott Sonnon.

Scott Sonnon, The Flow Coach » Blog Archive » Self (Health) Defense:
"Decisive boundary setting does not mean that you have a grudge or a chip on your shoulder; but rather placing a premium value on your time, energy and resources..."

75% "Right-On!"- 25% "Will you please hurry up and get your shit together?"

Hit & Run > A Promise to Keep Obama's Medical Marijuana Promise - Reason Magazine:
"Yesterday I wondered whether and when President Obama would follow through on his oft-repeated campaign promise to stop the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws by harassing patients and dispensaries. Today The Washington Times reports that Obama plans to suspend the DEA's raids once he "nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers." I don't understand why Obama can't simply tell the Bush administration holdovers to cut it out; they work for him now. But it's encouraging that the White House is now on record with a promise to keep Obama's promise..."

Not unlike my job, actually.

1st&2nd graders are taking tests all day, 3rd graders are visiting high schools. My day consists of reading books, surfing the net and doing some prep work for elementary school on Monday. Not a high stress job, the JET Programme.

Overheard in the Office | Did You Know the FBI Invented Cheese to Protect Us from Aliens?:
"Office assistant #1: So the boss has been in meetings all day--you must be having a good day?
Office assistant #2: Oh yes! I've been reading conspiracy theories on the internet for the last four hours. I've really learned a lot.


The New Bipartisanship.

Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » You’ll Never Get This 21 Minutes Of Your Life Back:
"I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years."

Training 291/P90X 60.

X Stretch, 2 meals, 1.5L water.

"Bruce Lee is my homeboy."

Sister-in-law bearing gifts from Thailand = WIN.
From 2009-02-05

What I've read - Fast Food Nation.

Fast Food Nation is a book that stays with you for a while. It's a revealing and fascinating look at the restaurant and agricultural practices in America, and to some degree, around the world.

You can break down the book into sections, all of which are really interesting - the origins and rise of the fast food restaurant, how advertising targets kids, slaughterhouses, childhood obesity as related to fast food, and then there's a new afterword that hits on mad cow, BSE and vCJD.

While Schlosser does show some deserved respect to the entrepreneurs who kicked off the rise of the fast food industry, it's pretty safe to say that he paints a fairly negative picture. And yeah, deservedly so, in a lot of cases.

Food safety in the US, run by the USDA and FDA does seem to be a joke. Bureaucrats and politicians seem far more beholden to agribusiness and lobbyists than they ever care about the health and safety of the American citizen, the consumer. They're weak, ineffectual and even when they do good work, they're hamstrung by the politicians who run the system. Just like Dick Cheney had the energy CEOs write America's energy policy for the last 8 years, agribusiness all but dictates its regulatory bodies. Inane and systematically dysfunctional. Needing a thorough and complete overhaul.

The targeting of the kid demographic through the various forms of advertising he details in the book is just, well, the banality of evil, actually. In the words of the immortal Bill Hicks -
"...if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Thank you... Just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they'll take root. I don't know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourselves. Seriously though, if you are, do. No really, there's no rationalisation for what you do, and you are Satan's little helpers, OK? Kill yourselves, seriously. You're the ruiner of all things good. Seriously, no, this is not a joke. "There's gonna be a joke coming..." There's no fucking joke coming, you are Satan's spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage, you are fucked and you are fucking us, kill yourselves, it's the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show.

"You know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar, that's a big dollar, a lot of people are feeling that indignation, we've done research, huge market. He's doing a good thing." Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scumbags, quit putting a godamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!"
- sorry for the tangent. But it's true. Advertising has long since abandoned the idea of showing you how a good product can fill a meaningful need in your life and has since become a way to target market demographics and figure out a way to manipulate you into buying cheaply made crap you don't need. And FFN shows you many an example, in great detail, of how soulless and screwed up that whole process is. And it's targeted in a lot of cases, at kids, those whose brainpans aren't fully formed enough to know how it is they're being manipulated.

Life in the slaughterhouses seems amazingly screwed up, in terms of worker safety and food quality. Sanitation sounds horrible. Breeding grounds for both disease and for taking advantage of desperate immigrant labor. There's blood, corpses, fecal matter and all sorts of crap that animals were never intended to eat being force fed to them in their "feed" just so they get fattened up all the quicker. Workers health care and worker's comp seems atrocious. You can read one harrowing, depressing story here - the tale of Kenny Dobbins who once worked for the Montfort Beef Company and a few others.

Where I don't quite get on board with the author is that he seems to think that the answer to all these problems are more regulations and more politics. I don't know that I buy that. To some extent, sure. You absolutely need some regulation.

But in one of his own examples in the book, he points out that the most effective and rapid change in safety measures took effect not because of new government regulation, but because the major buyer of ground beef in the US - McDonald's - demanded more stringent requirements from the producers. And McDonald's did so in response to the pressures and demands brought on it by its consumers. It's complex and complicated, but economics seems more effective in a lot of cases than the convenient, feel good, quick fix of a new law on the books.

At the same time, you can't trust the corporations and the "free market" completely. The market, if it were truly free, would make no hesitation to have child labor, 75 hour work weeks and, well, slavery. The screwed up thing is that corporations, by their definition, must maximize profit for shareholders. And as history, and a lot of examples in the book show, they will gladly sacrifice quality, the safety of its workers and customers, and damn near anything else in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. And the legal structure of the corporation let's them make all these decisions while effectively removing any responsibility or culpability. Private profit, amortized and nonexistent risk or responsibility. That's what corporations are designed to do. The system is really screwed up.

In terms of dealing with the omnipresent and insidious advertising, he goes on and on about advertising bans and new regulations preventing the targeting of advertising at kids. See, his heart is in the right place, but... no. Just no. Ignoring the fact that I hate limits on free speech, and I despise abridging freedoms, even of soul-sucking advertising agencies, in the name of "for the children" - the bottom line is that you do not make things better by trying to soften the world, you make it better by making your kids harder. You don't try to smooth out, foam pad and nerf all of existence so your precious and wonderful children can be "safe" from the big, bad world - you teach your kids how to be smarter, brighter, tougher and more savvy than the people who are trying to work them.

Similarly, I found his laying off of obesity on the fast food industry kind of shoddy. I don't care if they've got the most amazing advertising technology in the history of all time on their side, no one buys and shoves cheeseburgers down your throat but you. No one gets your kids a happy meal but you. A little personal responsibility, huh?

And as horrible as some of the sanitation conditions in the slaughterhouses sounds, imho, and it's probably horribly wrong, I tend to think that the greatest determiner of whether you catch some germ or disease is your own immune system. And that you make strong with a good diet and exercise. Again, I tend to think a lot of it is in your own hands.

A lot of the book, and how you take it and read it will depend on your personal value system. Obviously. So when you think of fast food, do you think of "conformity and cheapness" or do you think of "consistency and value"? And what's the difference, exactly?

And the upshot of all of it, especially when I was reading the parts of the book on the development of "natural" and artificial flavors, and how "foods" are processed since the 1950s... it basically confirmed to me that the vast majority of crap frankenfoods we shovel down our throats are simply horrible for us. People decry the fast food industry, and sometimes maybe rightly so, but the same junk foods that are served there are 90% of the same processed, nutritionally devoid crap in the local supermarket.

If you're eating anything but fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, seeds and some dairy [maybe] - you're eating junk. And even then, if you're eating veggies - organic is better. Grass fed beef, free range eggs and chicken, wild fish - all are better. Anything less and in a lot of ways you're probably compromising your health. If you're drinking anything but water and maybe some types of teas, same thing. Make your compromises if you want - I certainly do - and have some grains or sugars, some alcohol or processed junk, the human body can tolerate almost anything [but imo only thrives on the good stuff] - but do it consciously and choose your vices while being aware of the trade offs. Don't fool yourself and don't lie to yourself.

Anyways, the book is highly recommended. Thought provoking and well written. You are what you eat, after all.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why it seems you have to pay attention to the idiots.

Even if only to mock them.

Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » We’re All Bob Somerby Now:
"I know many of you keep saying we should just ignore the talking heads and the chattering classes, and we should just tune them out, but that is ridiculous. We can’t. They control the debate, and their silliness, their inconsequential bullshit, and their tit for tat false equivalencies are really destroying this nation. I got a phone call last night from someone, and the gist of the conversation was “Well, so much for hope and change. That didn’t take long. How about Obama’s performance officer not paying her taxes, either?” This wasn’t an uneducated, uninformed person- this is someone who follows the new, which is precisely the problem.

Don’t get me wrong- I think it is insane these three candidates were not vetted better, but what is driving me truly and utterly to the brink of madness is the notion that the sins of these people is somehow on par with the real sins of the past eight years...

The problem is who is informing us with what. Our media is simply failing us. Why have they not asked the Republicans how tax cuts are going to provide jobs? Why are they not laughing openly when the Republicans bring up capital gains tax cuts as part of a stimulus package. Why are they not asking the Republicans to explain how infrastructure spending is not stimulus? Why are they pretending this woman’s minor tax oversight is on par with outing a CIA agent or letting tens of thousands of people soak for a week in New Orleans. Why are they gleefully reporting about Joe the Plumber giving economic advice to the House republicans while their colleagues are writing about the Republicans being unified in opposition to the stimulus and putting two and two together and realizing that the opposition to the stimulus from Republicans is based on the deep thoughts of a drug addled radio host and a guy who installs toilets?"

You can run, but you can't hide...

...from your past, that is. Apparently. In endeavoring to maintain some semblance of hair, in order to appease the wife goddess, I'd been sporting a flattop, kinda. But it's still too short in front to keep a proper flattop. So in trying to find something that works and doesn't look too bad, I basically ended up hacking my hair into a standard issue Marine Corps high and tight.

Don't get me wrong, I look good [of course] but it just goes to show, even 9 years after getting out, some habits die hard. It is good to know that in the last 9 year at least my hairline hasn't receded any worse.
From 2009-02-04

In other news, one of the reasons I've shaved my head, apparently, is that every time I look in the mirror I see where my hair is "uneven" and "wrong" and needs to be "fixed."


I have issues, clearly.

Today's random Internet Awesomeness.

Training 290/P90X 59.

Shoulders&Arms, 1L water - too much coffee and diet soda, and 2 meals.

Inspiration/Motivation - Tony Horton's Blog Spot: Why Are You Here?:
"...I believe that a majority of the people who suffer from poor health, sadness, depression, obesity and lack of fitness, do so because they don't know the real reason why they're here on this Earth. They have jobs, families and make money. Most have a warm bed and the creature comforts of a modern lifestyle. Is that enough? Is it filling the void? Is it everything you hoped and dreamed for as a kid?

...The truth is their job doesn't fulfill them and the little victories are just Band-Aids. But this is life, right? W R O N G !

Is your job the reason why you are here? Is your family the reason why you are here? Is your glass of Cabernet during dinner why you are here? Maybe. For some the answer is yes. For many others the answer is a big fat NO. If the answer is NO, then whatcha gonna do about it? Read a book, go to a seminar, volunteer at a local shelter or school? What?

...Have you ever been bored? If the answer is Yes, there is a chance, a likelihood, a possibility that you have not yet figured out why you are here. When you have found your purpose, you have discovered why you're here. It's hard to be bored when you're out in the world doin your thang! Your reason-for-being makes you happy. You want and need to do your thing often. When you are doing your thing, you are not overeating, you're not watching tons of TV, you're not prone to addictive behavior and it's very hard to be sad, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed and unhappy when you are doing your thing...

New things scare people. Hard, complicated (at first) things can be frightening. Not looking good while doing something new, upsets people. I say so what, who cares and big deal to all that noise in your head. If you show up, you might discover why you are here. And after you've shown up use the other 20% to pay attention while you're there..."

Too easy.

Via riotclitshave

I would be a bad parent...

...because this is awesome.

Child Transportation Fail

And this bit, filming your child high on drugs, just after oral surgery, is pure brilliance.

Via Kid on Drugs - Boing Boing

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Overheard awesomeness.

Overheard in New York | Who Wants to Listen to a Conversation in a Big Room Full Of Chairs?:
"Macho frat boy #1: Yeah, if we could get free tickets to the shows or something, that'd be sweet.
Macho frat boy #2: Dude...what shows?
Macho frat boy #1: The fuckin' plays, man! Don't you go to the fuckin' plays??
Macho frat boy #2: No.
Macho frat boy #1: You're a fuckin' douchebag, man.

--Wagner College, Staten Island

Overheard by: wiggles"

Overheard Everywhere | Let's Hope It's Either Biology Class Or Comparative Media Studies:
"Professor, noticing student's t-shirt: What is that?
Student: A gorilla and a shark high fiving in front of an explosion.
Professor: I'm going to work that into discussion somehow.

Point Park University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Overheard by: ZB"

Overheard Everywhere | Wait 'Til She Learns Sweden Also Has Universal Healthcare:
"Jersey girl #1: And then she was like, 'What's a Guido?'
Jersey girl #2 (blissfully): I like to think there's a world where people don't know what Guidos are. I bet there'd be unicorns.

Manasquan, New Jersey"

Overheard in the Office | But I've Made Do with a Forehead and Half a Boob Before...:
"Audience development director: Is anybody else having any weird computer issues? I'm having trouble on the main site and on admin...
Marketing director: The porn I'm looking at is taking an awfully long time to load, if that's what you mean.

Manhattan, New York

Overheard by: Sarah"

Overheard in the Office | The Children I Can Take or Leave:
"Boss, on his way out the door for a rough meeting: If I never come back, tell my wife I like her.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania"

The 80s won't die.

Yes, those are leg warmers. And yes, I did try to stop her.
From 2009-02-03

Training 289/P90X 58.

2L water, one big meal, plyometrics

I defy you not to say "awwww."

Via riotclitshave

Think about it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Training 288/P90X 57.

Chest & Back, 2L water, 1 big meal

What Michael Phelps should've said when caught smoking a bong.

The Agitator » Blog Archive » A Letter I’d Like To See (But Won’t):
"Dear America,

I take it back. I don’t apologize.

Because you know what? It’s none of your goddamned business. I work my ass off 10 months per year. It’s that hard work that gave you all those gooey feelings of patriotism last summer. If during my brief window of down time I want to relax, enjoy myself, and partake of a substance that’s a hell of a lot less bad for me than alcohol, tobacco, or, frankly, most of the prescription drugs most of you are taking, well, you can spare me the lecture.

I put myself through hell. I make my body do things nature never really intended us to endure. All world-class athletes do. We do it because you love to watch us push ourselves as far as we can possibly go. Some of us get hurt. Sometimes permanently. You’re watching the Super Bowl tonight. You’re watching 300 pound men smash each while running at full speed, in full pads. You know what the average life expectancy of an NFL player is? Fifty-five. That’s about 20 years shorter than your average non-NFL player. Yet you watch. And cheer. And you jump up spill your beer when a linebacker lays out a wide receiver on a crossing route across the middle. The harder he gets hit, the louder and more enthusiastically you scream.

Yet you all get bent out of shape when Ricky Williams, or I, or Josh Howard smoke a little dope to relax. Why? Because the idiots you’ve elected to make your laws have have without a shred of evidence beat it into your head that smoking marijuana is something akin to drinking antifreeze, and done only by dirty hippies and sex offenders.

You’ll have to pardon my cynicism. But I call bullshit. You don’t give a damn about my health. You just get a voyeuristic thrill from watching an elite athlete fall from grace–all the better if you get to exercise a little moral righteousness in the process. And it’s hypocritical righteousness at that, given that 40 percent of you have tried pot at least once in your lives.

Here’s a crazy thought: If I can smoke a little dope and go on to win 14 Olympic gold medals, maybe pot smokers aren’t doomed to lives of couch surfing and video games, as our moronic government would have us believe. In fact, the list of successful pot smokers includes not just world class athletes like me, Howard, Williams, and others, it includes Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, the last three U.S. presidents, several Supreme Court justices, and luminaries and success stories from all sectors of business and the arts, sciences, and humanities..."

More at the link, and it's all brilliant.