Monday, December 23, 2013

You Stay Classy, General

OK, many of us have been there -- a work event, you're a bit nervous, so you have one drink too many and make an off-color comment or hit on a coworker. You come to work the next day, a bit red-faced and hungover, and 6 months later you change jobs.

Well, that is not how they do things in the US Air Force! The Air Force was unwilling to half-assedly sexually harass the occasional female like lazy civilians, and instead they went the wholesale sex assault route at Lackland. With the same can-do attitude, AFB Gen. Michael Carey decided that a five-day trip to Russia to liaise with his counterparts in control of Russia's nuclear arsenal was a good chance to get really ripped, make a drunken fool of himself and repeatedly hit on hot women that were, in retrospect, likely spies.  I'd go through the whole list of hijinks, but suffice it to say that he tried to give a fist-bump to a tour guide at a monastery, mocked a translator and then tried to make up for it by calling her beautiful, and spent the morning rides to events sleeping off the previous night's debauchery.  For the rest, check out the writeup:

Of course, what did Chuggin' Carey get for all of this? A change to an "advisory" role that doesn't involve any responsibility.  But not, you know, real punishment.  Ugh.

You Stay Classy, USAF!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

India to USA: Let Us Abuse Our Citizens

I'd like to give a HUGE GFY to India's government on the whole arresting-a-consular-officer thing.  Why?

  • “The worst that can be said about her is that she did not comply with the amounts that was supposed to be paid under your law. I don’t think that justifies treating her like a common criminal” according to India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid.  Guess what, asshat? Acting like a common criminal justifies being treated like one.
  • The rights of the maid's family are not equal to those of the officer: “I don’t think they are so valuable to our relationship as a diplomatic officer of the government of India.” So, your government thinks that its officers can break employment laws, even when it harms YOUR citizens?
  • The Indian government was warned in SEPTEMBER about this -- more than two months before the arrest. They did nothing because they “didn’t expect this could happen.” This is the 3rd time since 2010 that Indian government employees have been busted for the same type of law -- and they didn't change their behavior. Will you "expect it to happen" next time?
Thanks to the NY Times for the info!

And anyone in India that is offended by the treatment of the woman arrested, are you also offended by her breaking the law to underpay one of your citizens?  I didn't think so.  You stay classy, India

Monday, December 16, 2013

Taste The Ignorance

One great thing about the gay marriage debate in the USA is just how many people like to defend "traditional marriage". They will cite the Bible/Torah and conveniently forget some "benefits" (for the man) of Old Testament marriage:
  • You can have female slaves, and sleep with them if your wife fails to produce a kid (Go Abraham!)
  • You can lie about your marital status to people that want to sleep about your wife that would disapprove of you being married -- but they still get to sleep with her and you're off the hook (Abraham again!)
  • If your brother dies without a kid, you MUST marry his widow and knock her up -- or there will be smiting (Onan -- it was not doing his brotherly duty that got him condemned)
  • Have another wife -- it's all good. All the big names did it!
  • Finally, if you're hearing voices, it's totally ok to climb a hill and slaughter you first-born son. After all, one must have faith.

Of course, these are no longer "traditional" or "biblical", at least if you're the Family Research Council:

"Throughout history, marriage has been future-oriented, focused on the next generation and the best interests of children" 

So, if you have problems with the legalization of gay marriage, feel free to ignore the parts of your religious texts that might be awkward for your argument.  It's traditional!

Oh, and FYI, the Utah decision didn't legalize polygamy -- it struck down a restriction against "cohabitation". Moral of the story: it's also ok to be a completely uninformed jackass when complaining about something that you think you disagree with.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Simple Test For Creationists

Creationists are always insisting on teaching "theories" that they claim are alternatives to evolution. But most scientists think this is just a backdoor to teaching religion in schools. I have a simple test to separate those who have legitimate qualms about "holes"* in the theory of evolution from those concerned about religion more than science:
Which concerns you more, the lack of space given to alternatives to evolution in science education, or the lack of space given to alternatives to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics?

If they answer "evolution", they're either woefully uneducated about quantum mechanics (and so they need to study up before they talk about science education), or they are more concerned about religion than valid scientific controversy. Feel free to deride their lack of knowledge of basic science or the nature of scientific controversy.

If they answer "quantum mechanics", take the time to discuss with them their views on science education and problems with the theory of evolution***, if they have any. And feel free to discuss the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics!

* Just fyi, there will always be holes in the fossil record, since so few living beings are fossilized**.
** As a homage to this process I try to treat explanatory comments in my coding as fossils, this explaining why they are so rare and often confusing.
*** Personally, I think the platypus is the best argument for creationism/intelligent design. Though in this case it's more drunken design.

Monday, September 09, 2013

How Does My Nephew Rate?

Someone asked me last week*, "on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your nephew?"

I thought for a second and replied, honestly, "Probably about a 3... billion".  Happy birthday to the best Wild Man in the world!

* This didn't happen, but it was a good setup for the bit.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

My Character Is Kind Of An Asshole

I recently got sucked into the rerelease of Baldur's Gate.  It was HUGE in the late 90s, and it's a pretty terrific game, at least if you're into fantasy RPGs (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons).

It's the usual shtick -- you create a character, choosing his/her race (elf/human/dwarf/etc., not black/white/asian/etc.), class (wizard, fighter, thief) and alignment (the nine combinations of Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic and Good/Neutral/Evil).  These choices affect how other characters in the game (not online) relate to you.

My character, Sir Hardass, is ostensibly a Chaotic Good Barbarian (barbarian is a life choice in D&D, not a judgement). So, he's generally a "good" guy, but he doesn't let The Man* determine what he should do.  After all, a man's gotta have a code.

I picked up a real badass guy for my "party"**, but he was "Evil".  So evil, in fact, that if my party did too many good deeds, he'd leave me.  I was in a bind -- I wanted to see how his storyline played out, but I also wanted to stay "Good".  Naturally, my curiosity (and desire to keep this badass around to help me kick ass), led me to keeping him.  But to finish the story, I kept being required to do good deeds.  So, I can be "Good" and lose the tough guy, or I can do some selective "Evil" acts and keep my bodyguard.  Naturally, I chose the latter.  So I killed some random civilian and this balanced out all my "Good" deeds.

Now, the question is, should I feel bad about this?  I did something in the game that I would NEVER do in real life***.  It didn't hurt anyone real, just affected a "character" that's really just some lines of code.  So, should I try to maintain a moral code that's vaguely similar to mine in real life, or is it ok to embrace my dark side in video games?

* or The Woman
** or entourage, as I like to think of it.
*** From a morality standpoint.  I also would NEVER in real life fight a bunch of angry ogres or cast a fireball spell.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

You Just Got Gullivered!

Bad news for a trap jaw ant -- Azteca alfari Cecropia PROTECTS THIS HOUSE!!!! Well, tree. But, still, maybe opt for an uninhabited tree?

Book Review: The God Delusion

After quite a few recommendations, I finally got around to reading Richard Dawkins' pro-atheism book, "The God Delusion". Now, with such an incendiary topic, there are bound to be polarized opinions on the book*. But I stay true to my agnostic beliefs by falling directly in the middle. I'll treat the book in two parts -- its writing and its arguments. First, the writing. I've read Dawkins' previous book, "The Selfish Gene", and I enjoyed it. But with "Delusion", Dawkins has a very large axe to grind, and he wastes no time -- in the intro he asks us to "imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues" -- forgetting to ask us to "imagine no ancient statues", since those the Taliban destroyed were, um, religious. His biases continue throughout the book, whether quoting only religious nuts (or, "assholes" as I call them) that harass atheists scientists (without referring to even the possibility of atheists harassing believers) or of freely ascribing belief to dead scientists that he identifies with, "Certainly their writing on religion in their own time leave me no doubt that they would be atheists in ours" while bemoaning believers that do the same to dead agnostics/atheists. Basically, this is very much written as a pro-religion text aimed at fellow believers. But in this case, the belief is negative. However, even with this caveat, it was mostly a fun, thoughtful read. If you can deal the the ever-present hubris**, you'll find some good food for thought. Next, the arguments. My major problem with his arguments is one he blows off early on -- his response to agnosticism. He sees the question of theism as a temporarily unprovable problem of science. He argues that while we don't have the technology/insight now to absolutely (dis)prove the existence of God, he thinks we will. This is, to me, a laughably inane argument. If there is a being that is omniscient and able to bend or break the physical laws of the universe at will, any attempts to identify this being by laws it controls is doomed to failure. This is the basis of my agnosticism, and my belief that anything more stringent, for or against, is a non-scientific belief. Otherwise, his arguments are fairly solid. He glosses over the implications of the Copenhagen Interpretation of the universe needing a consciousness to escape from a permanent indefinite state and the odd issue that life*** seems to be the only exception to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, to argue that, based on our current data and Occam's razor, that a God is less likely than not. Not impossible, by any means, but less likely. Again, an extremely strong argument for agnosticism and a weaker one for atheism. The final half of the book, on the memetic origins of religion, was very interesting. Dawkins makes a good argument that our morality does not currently come from religion (though doesn't make one that it previously might have). He also makes a good argument for not indoctrinating kids into religion, though his implication that religious indoctrination is more harmful than child sexual abuse is so far beyond offensive that it was hard to finish the book. But this was one of several anti-religious claims that he supported solely by anecdotal evidence**** -- the same kind of behavior that he mocks regularly when done by people in the name of religion. He also glosses over atrocities done in atheist regimes, claiming that these were done by atheists, not in the name of atheism. No believers killed in the Soviet Union or China were available for comment. Because, you know, they were dead. Because of their beliefs. So, get it, read it, talk about it with your friends. But don't expect anything vaguely approaching Dawkins' previous work -- he is clearly angry and hurt, and he's striking back. At times with reason, often with humor, but always with the fervor of a true believer. I give it 3 out of 5 stars. * Not so much on my post -- the poles here are "Meh" and "Huh". ** If this sentence isn't hubristic, I'd like to know what is: Maybe the psychological reason for this amazing blindness has something to do with the fact that many people have not had their consciousness raised, as biologists have, by natural selection and its power to tame improbability." *** Except puppies. Those definitely increase entropy constantly. Delightful entropy, but definitely entropic. **** Including a shocking claim that Bush Sr. didn't believe that atheists were really citizens, in spite of no record of this and no others present at the time recording or remembering the claim. Not exactly peer-review evidentiary standards

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Florida Starts Their Own Butlerian Jihad

Who isn't afraid of computers taking over? From Dune to Terminator and beyond, it's been a common theme of sci-fi for a half-century or more. But finally, lawmakers have listened. Lawmakers in Florida, shocked by internet cafes that were gambling parlors, outlawed any "system or network of devices" that could be used in a game of chance. Sadly, the proliferation of online gaming sites mean that definition includes all internet-enabled smartphones and computers. Now they're faced with a useless law that can't be enforced at all, or one that is enforced against suspected internet cafes but not everyone else that then has the problem of selective prosecution. Nice work, Florida!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hypocrisy Watch: How About Gay Divorce?

Let's be honest -- gay marriage is not going away in the USA. If you think it is, you don't understand polling or demographics -- or both. But let's skip this issue and get to the fun stuff -- how do you feel about gay divorce? For "traditional"* opponents of gay marriage, there are  two arguments:

  • Divorce is wrong! Those gay couples should stay married, dammit! And then have their marriages annulled by courts that understand marriage is only between one man and one woman** now that we're in an industrial society and can ignore uncomfortable precedents in the religious texts that we use to support marriage as a one-to-one, male-female contract.
  • Ha! Those marriages will ALWAYS end in divorce because marriage should only be between a man and a woman**, so let 'em split! But don't, you know, give them any economic or social rights in the divorce.

* By "traditional", I mean people that oppose gay marriage on a conservative view of Judeo-Christian values imposed on a state. I've yet to come across someone opposed to gay marriage rights based on solely atheistic or logical principles. 
**  Just FYI, if you're using the Bible to support your stance on "traditional" marriage, you might want to do a quick count of the number of wives various patriarchs*** had in the Bible. And remember, "cultural differences" is exactly the kind of liberal mumbo-jumbo that commies and atheists use to support gay rights.
*** One-to-n, where "n" is the number of women a man can handle!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hypocrisy Watch: Iowa Rep. Steve King

So, you're a Republican Congressman from Iowa, what's your key guiding pricinple? Farm Subsidies? No, that's the key guiding principle for ALL Iowa politicians. No, what separates you from those godless hippies commies in the Spend-o-crat party is their insistence on big federal government and endless federal regulation -- in two words, States' Rights. So, when a state decides to pass a law regarding the produce sold in their state, what do you do? Beg for more federal laws and regulations! Because the only thing that can save the economy is more federal government... dammit, this seems like it doesn't quite mesh with his other nutty beliefs. Specifically, the bit on his website that reads, "Federal bureaucrats are working overtime churning out reams and reams of new, burdensome regulations." Now, I'm not sure if he wrote and supported his amendment to add new federal regulations to ignore states' rights to govern their own commerce during overtime or during regular working hours, but either way, he seems to join the majority of politicians in really only believing in one principle: local pork. Jackass.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Want to Date FISA

FISA, the court that decides on the legality of foreign surveillance, has declined 11 requests... out of 33,900 in the last 33 years.  To put this in perspective, in the same time period, FISA has said "no" less often to requests than women have to dating me!  So, FISA, can you do some outreach with single women to spread your gospel of Just Say Yes?

Here's The Daily Show's take on the issue (spoiler alert: they also think this is insane) 

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Good News! You're Not Paranoid - NSA Oversight
Daily Show Full EpisodesIndecision Political HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook
* With roughly the same sample size.  I use a shotgun approach to dating, not a sniper rifle.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Meetingnesia - A Corporate Epidemic

We've all been there:  a follow-up meeting where the principals are astounded by some mysterious or unsatisfactory decision/result of a previous meeting -- that they attended.  For the longest time in my business career I assumed that this had a simple explanation: these people were morons*.  Until my epiphany today.

 These people, most commonly middle managers, aren't morons**.  They're victims of a epidemic: Meetingnesia***. It's the silent corporate productivity killer -- follow-up meetings are spent rehashing and rearguing previously agreed-upon topics rather than accepting this and moving on. How can you tell if your coworker is a sufferer?  Here are some common statements that can clue you in:
  • "Is this the same chart as last time? I remember it differently."
  • "I don't remember agreeing to that"
  • "Was that in the email?"
  • "Did you email this?"
  •  I think we need to start over on this. Run a few more scenarios and get back to us."
Unfortunately, there's no cure. It's not terminal to the victim, but it tends to be terminal to their coworkers' job satisfaction.  My advice? Claim the differences are due to the Coriolis Effect -- they won't remember it, anyway.

* Or maybe forgetful. Or liars.  Or a combination. But none of these are as funny as "morons".  I love that word.
** Or, more accurately, aren't NECESSARILY morons.
*** The "g" is silent.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Bad Tasmanian Kitty!

So, Looney Tunes lied to us -- there are no insatiable whirlwind Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania. Just big-ass feral cats that are destroying the ecosystem. Seriously, look at these things:
And how about this tabby?
I think Cartman had it right... 


Friday, May 03, 2013

The Favorite Author Dilemma

A good friend of mine an author-binger. He'd find a new favorite, then read everything by the author*.  Once he'd made his way through the complete works, he'd move on.  So "favorite author" was a constantly changing title.  For me, it was Tolkien from middle school to college, though Clancy, Asimov, and Herbert.  But then I read

and the title belt switched hands. It was just one book, but an internaional-only sequel added to the appeal of a smart kid growing up surrounded by racist morons. Courtenay wore the belt for a few years, threatened by Douglas Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach", and then I found Jared Diamond

Sadly (for Jared), I almost immediately read...

Holy crap -- intelligent, multiple voices**, and a shady part of history -- what could be better? But, then I read did a bit of binge-ing myself -- I went through "Pigs in Heaven", "The Bean Trees", and "Animal Dreams". They were good, but none had the magic of Poisonwood.  However, Neal Stephenson had an entirely different kind of magic.
Before the Matrix, his big idea-filled mix of near-future sci-fi, political/consumer commentary, sword fighting and Babylonian mythology distracted me from the Wheel of Time.  "Cryptonomicon" and "The Diamond Age" kept the title in Neal's hands, despite the magnificence of "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal", various work by Alan Moore , Grant Morrison, and Brian Michael Bendis tempted, but with "Stiff ", Mary Roach announced her contention. However, after that, an unprecedented flurry of activity came -- 3 books, 3 changes in the title:
Unfortunately, these authors only write books once per, respectively, 18 months, 3 years and too damn long.  So the title tends to change often.  Why do I bring this up?  Because I just downloaded the latest from Mary Roach: 

Will she take the title back from George Martin? I'm hoping yes, because I don't want to wait years for another book from my favorite author.  And, in case you're wondering, Jasper Fforde, JK Rowling, and Robert Jordan were short-changed because this is already far too long
* Easier with some more than others, clearly 
** Like in my head!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cardinals Keep It All White

The world is changing, and so is the Catholic Church. Or so they want you to believe. They just picked a new pope, Francis*. Said the Vatican spokesman, "We wanted the new pope to represent the growing balance of our flock in the South, but we also wanted, you know, a white guy. And not just kind of white, we wanted lily white. So we found this guy in Argentina, and he was perfect -- speaks Italian, really hid his molesters well, and didn't make waves when his country was killing people by the truckload.  A perfect candidate, or he would be if perfection weren't really . Also, he knew that of all the problems facing Argentina, gay marriage was the worst, followed by the free distribution of contraceptives. Everyone knows if we could fix those two, it'd be exactly what Jesus wanted us to do. Pretty much a no-brainer."

This post was brought to you by my incredulousness that anyone still listens to a pope**.  Also by the word "incredulousness".

* His first choice, Pope Gangnam Style, was rejected for being "so five minutes ago".
** Why? Read a book. Seriously, if you need to ask why this is a bad idea, I direct you to most of the last 2000 years.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

I Dream of Shapeshifting Vehicles

My favorite thing about dreams, other than occasionally being able to fly, is how I never question the logic of what is happening while in the dream, no matter how insane it is. And I don't mean Salma Hayek falling for me*, but how the scenario can gradually change without phasing dream-me** at all. We've all had this happen, but what brings it up? Last night's rather insane dream.

It started at a friend's in Nacogdoches, watching the Big Game (but not the Super Bowl).  Which big game? Excellent question, I have no idea. But it was a Game, and it was Big. So there. We ran out of beer, and I volunteered to go on a beer run.  2 of the guys (men, but unidentified) joined me in my '88 Honda Accord (which I sold in 2003 and probably is now dead). When we got to the first stop sign, the Accord was no longer a car but a tricycle. But everyone fit -- I think it had dual seats behind the normal seat. We saw a female friend (known, but won't be identified for her sake) walking to the party, so we picked her up. She also fit on the tricycle, which surprised no one.  At her recommendation, we opted for the Kroger farther away, for reasons that were unclear.

By the time we got to the main street, I was no longer pedaling, but just "walking" the trike -- the third passenger somehow prevented the pedals from working, yet we didn't get off and walk. The other three rode while I waddled along, slowly moving the tricycle. When we got to a major uphill intersection (which doesn't actually exist in Nac), I made everyone get off because going uphill was too much, and we left the trike and just walked.  At this point we looked at each other and said, "We should have gone to the closer grocery store. And taken a car."

Dream-me needs to plan ahead better.

* Clearly, she would.
** Different from dreamy-me, who I am told doesn't actually exist

Monday, February 25, 2013

Do You Hear That Ed? Bears!

Unless you're in Switzerland, and in that case, you just lost your only wild bear. However, being a Swiss* bear, it** didn't actually attack anyone.  It just waited for the German bears to finish off the tourists while it made a healthy profit off their kills.

I kid, I kid! This bear was following humans, which either meant it was: 
  1. Creepy
  2. Bored
  3. About to do some mauling
Rather than arresting it, like most cops, the Swiss just gunned it down*** Of course, the WWF was "extremely disappointed", presumably because the bear wasn't able to maul anyone prior to being put down.

* To be fair, the article didn't mention where the bear was born.  It was probably an illegal immigrant, coming for free health care, I bet.
** Jebus, I'm a blogger.  I don't google stuff, much less probe bears for gender identification.
*** Then sold off its gold and jewelry.  Last Nazi collaboration joke, I swear****.
**** In this post

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Equality is a Long, Hard Road... To Murder

When Oscar Pistorius fought the IOC for the right to compete in the Olympics and not just the Paralympics, I didn't realize that he was willing to take it to the next level. After all, if you can take on Usain Bolt, why not OJ?

And so, we're left wondering, why did he (allegedly) shoot his girlfriend? This is, of course, nothing to joke about, but is anyone else wondering if this was 'roid rage?

Monday, January 28, 2013

2012 Wrap-Up: The Good Books

So, not all the books I read were awesome. But there were other goods ones. Here are some more notables:
I'm late to the party on this one, but it was surprisingly good. I also think the criticisms of it being a stereotypical "white liberal saves the blacks" is misplaced. The protagonist is less-than-pristine
Those Guys Have All The Fun -- The juicy bits of the ESPN oral history weren't nearly as interesting as how it has become the business juggernaut that it has. Still, a fun read
Sure, it's Oscar-bait now, but the book outshines the movie. I still hate Salmon Chase and McClellan, though. Jerks.
A great bit of fast-paced "hard" sci-fi. And INCREDIBLY realistic -- IT does everything it can to prevent progress
I'm a Kingsolver fan, sue me. Like "Prodigal Summer", it took me a bit to get into, but I really enjoyed it. It's got Trotsky and Frida Kahlo, what's not to like?
A novelized history of the last 40 years or so of the Mexican drug trade. All the ludicrously unbelievable parts are pretty accurate.
NPR's 40 year old sports reporter tries to become a kicker for the Shanahan Broncos.  Good look at rookie life in the NFL
What if Van Helsing didn't manage to kill Dracula? How about the undead take over Victorian London?
I actually liked her first book, "Gregor and the Underworld", too,  but this was surprisingly good.
The last 30 years or so of Saudi history are fascinating, and will be relevant for a while.
A modern take on "Rendezvous with Rama", but with some changes.  A good novel of first contact, though it abruptly ends in anticipation of a sequel
         Next: The Meh... and Worse