Saturday, December 04, 2010

Hyperreality Writ Large

I first encountered hyperreality 5 years ago, as described here. If you ever doubt the validity of the concept, go to Las Vegas -- hyperreality writ large. More real than real.

I hadn't been to Vegas since maybe 1994. Even back then, it was, who can be more gaudy and garish. The sky's the limit -- cancel that, there is no limit.

This time, I stayed at the Luxor. So, I'm inside a pyramid, on the 22nd floor. You look down, there is a Mayan pyramid, and then a bunch of Italianate buildings, with a 1/4 scale Chrysler building just behind. Beneath, of course, a 100 x 40 ft American flag.

But I look out my window, and there, behind the castle (Excalibur), next to the 1/2 scale Empire State Building, is a 1/2 scale Chrysler Building. So which Chrysler Building is the real one?

Oh wait -- neither. "I don't need to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, I saw it already in Vegas."

So the 1st night there, we eat at the House of Blues in the Mandalay Bay casino. The band (drums, bass, strat, and harp) plays as their first song "Dock of the Bay" as a shuffle -- not a blues song. Followed by "Little Red Rooster" as a straight 12 bar blues, rather than going to the 4 at the start of the verse. And the last song they played, as we were leaving, was "Here We Go Round In Circles", a good song, but also not blues.

They had on the menu as an appetizer "Gator Pizza". Great, I love gator. But the waitress seemed astonished that I expected the Gator Pizza to have gator meat -- where the fuck was I from that I actually expected that a Gator Pizza might have gator meat on it? It had andouille sausage and jalapenos and lots of cheese and was very good. But, still, no gator. When you're more real than real, I guess you just get to make it up as you go along.

"A shrine to all the worst of American consumerism" my friend Ron characterized it as. "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". Seriously, what kind of slogan is that? You are going to do stuff there so bad that you don't want anyone in your normal life to know about it???

When I used to go to Vegas, it always felt like another planet. More real than real == unreal, completely. We've all seen "The Godfather", we all know where this came from. Family friendly or not, Las Vegas totally gives me the creeps.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Libertarian Menace

Libertarians have now achieved the greatest success in their history. They have their first ever US senator, and congressmen to join the pater familias, Ron Paul. So now Libertarians want to open a dialogue, and tell us all about their Libertarian philosophy and principles.

I have one word in reply, which I learned from our senior senator, Mitch McAsshole: no.

I do not want to discuss a national sales tax or fair tax.

I do not want to discuss getting rid of the minimum wage.

I do not want to discuss getting rid of social security.

I do not want to discuss getting rid of Medicaid, Medicare, or health care reform.

I do not want to discuss getting rid of the EPA and OSHA.

I do not want to discuss getting rid of the Departments of Energy, Education, or whatever.

The whole "less government" movement is driven by the ultra-rich (in this case the Koch Brothers) and (fossil fuel) corporations for one purpose -- to get rid of those pesky government agencies so we can go back to the good old days of the robber barons like Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan (giants striding the earth!) when you could plunder the environment, workers, and the public pretty much as you wanted. The whole deficit issue is just a stalking horse, they don't really give a damn about deficits.

So what was the secret of this recent success? When David Koch ran for the senate as a Libertarian, he got 1% of the vote. What is different now?

They were given an incredible gift last year by the Supreme Court, in deciding that corporations "free speech rights as individuals" allows them to donate as much as they want to political campaigns. Nameless foundations funneled 100s of millions to candidates in the 2010 elections, with republicans winning 4 to 1. That Supreme Court decision is still incomprehensible to me.

But, they were given an even greater gift in 2008: the US, in a move that the rest of the world applauded as showing that perhaps America was true to its purported values, elected as president a black man, the son of a first generation African immigrant, with an Arab middle name.

Immediately the finest propaganda and disinformation organ in the history of the world (Goebbels would be green with envy), Faux "News", sprang into action. Glenn Dick sez, "Obama is a racist who hates whites" -- with the implication that it's only self-defense for whites to be racist and hate him back. Dick and his ilk say over and over "Obama is probably not a muslim". And the birther movement generates enough requests for Obama's birth certificate that the state of Hawaii has to set up an automated system just to fulfill them all.

The subtext of all these messages being sent to every WASP waiting to receive them was very simple:

"Obama is going to take everything you've worked so hard for and give it away to blacks, immigrants, muslims and arabs!"
And how is Obama going to do that? Why taxes of course! And aren't we ... Taxed Enough Already!

It of course helped not at all that stimulus packages, which may have helped to avoid a great depression, have created a huge deficit. But, I fixed that! The NY Times budget calculator made it easy. And no one making under $250,000 per year will pay any more taxes!

And notice, the teabaggers did not form their own party. Republicans to the bone, and real republicans at that: the best century was not the 18th, it was the 12th, before that Magna Carta thing started us on the road to democracy and away from the divine right of kings.

When the republicans are in power, the main message of Faux "News" is fear. Be afraid to where you give up civil liberties and allow warrantless wiretaps, because those will happen to "them", not "us". With the democrats in power, that message changes to anger. Get angry that Obama is going to give it all away to blacks, immigrants, muslims, and arabs who don't deserve it.

It has been a masterful strategy. That it is cynical, dangerous, and disastrous to the long term interests of the US of course matters to them not one whit, if it will further their path to power.

So what do they want? Even though the disparity in wealth between the ultra-rich and the rest of us is the greatest since the 1920s, it is looking like the bleeding heart "we have to care about everybody" democrats will cave to the hard hearted "we've got ours so we don't give a shit" republicans on extending all the Bush tax cuts. I think the dems should come back with, "OK, if you don't want to drop the cuts for those making over $250,000, how about $500,000? How about $1M? How about $10M?" Maybe then people would see who's calling the shots for the republicans.

But I don't think that the taxes are the issue. I think that the immediate goal here was stated as one of the campaign planks of the Koch's current top lapdog, our newly elected Libertarian senator Random Paul:

Fight the EPA and make full use of our natural resources.
Koch Industries is one of the top 10 air polluters in the US. I'm sure the EPA cramps their style, and, come on, the Koch brothers are captains of industry, the rest of us should get out of their way and quit whining about air quality and global warming.

They have spent 100s of millions funding global warming denial. "Bad science" or "suspect science" -- did you ever particularly hear of these before fossil fuel billionaires felt threatened? Spend a few 100 million on misinformation and you could call to question whether the earth circles the sun.

Random Paul also proposed local rather than federal mine inspection and safety standards. He's got his "Friend of Coal" license plate, I'm sure. Did you know that pregnant women in Kentucky are advised not to eat fish caught in our beautiful lakes because of the high mercury content which comes from our many coal-burning electric plants? And that the rest of us are only supposed to eat fish once a week?

In his book "Collapse" (blogged here), Jared Diamond talks about mining as being one of the most environmentally damaging industries. It used to be standard practice for mining companies to create mountains or lakes of toxic byproducts, declare bankrupcy, close down the company, and move on, leaving a toxic mess for the government to clean up. And a little better process up front can avoid the whole thing, but, there goes that big government interfering in business again.

I believe in progress. I believe that all men are created equal. I believe that the struggle continues, that the words of Lincoln are as true now as they were 150 years ago:

It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You toil and work and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.

–Abraham Lincoln, Seventh and Last Joint Debate with Steven Douglas, held at Alton, Illinois, Oct. 15, 1858.

I cannot believe how quickly people forget, and how quick they are to sell out. Just because you make a million, or two, or 10, does not mean you have to become a republican. I can't get over republican women. Don't they realize that if these conservative types had their way that they wouldn't be voting? Or black republicans. Or non-Cuban hispanic republicans.

I am happy to work in technology. Just as the printing press led to the Enlightenment, when people began to question things like the divine right of kings and the right of small aristocracies to own and control everything, the Internet may lead to a similar but greater revolution, led by the Makers. But, even if we can all make everything we need locally everywhere in the world, the old fat cats will still control the sources of the raw materials. So we can't just opt out and ignore them.

So, Libertarians make big gains. Anarcho-capitalists trying to get us back to the good old days when the robber barons of industry were free to rape and pillage (although I'm sure they are way impressed by the recent financial manipulations of Wall Street that led to the housing collapse). A menace? Completely. A far worse threat to the future of America and the world than any terrorist threat I can think of.

Source materials:
Even farther right than you thought.
Presenting the Koch Brothers!

A New Heuristic

I think I have formulated a new heuristic for selecting reading material: avoid add-ons to an existing popular corpus. I just finished "The Children of Hurin", by J.R.R. Tolkien (and his son Christopher). Not as disjointed as "The Silmarillion", but very stilted in its narrative style. Not quite sure what the moral was. The bad guy (Sauron's old boss) curses the family of the main characters, curse seems to work pretty well ?!?!?

I also read two of the follow-up Dune trilogies. Really schlocky. Not that I don't mind schlock -- I still read graphic novels (aka comic books) -- but there's schlock, and then there's schlock. One thing that made most of Frank Herbert's novels so good what that, under the covers, they were about evolution. Completely lost in the follow-ups -- of which there are now two more. Also, they were prequels, which seem to obsess in making sure to fill any questions that one might have had in the originals. So you wind up with checking things off a list rather then getting a decent narrative.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kingbird in the City

Had a couple of titmice at our birdbath this morning (titmouse is German for "small bird"). I also saw what looked like a kingbird. I see those fairly often out on the country roads, but I've never seen one in the city.

Now that I think of it, tho, it might have been a junco. About time for them to be showing up. But, I think it was bigger than a junco. I'm holding out for kingbird.

Biked to High Bridge Park today. Headwinds heading out, so, mercifully, tailwinds coming back. Tried to check-in on FB from the park, but the signal from AT&T was too weak. Took a long-cut back: west on KY 1268 from downtown Wilmore, south on US 68 to KY 33, KY 33 back to Troy. 43.2 miles, 3h32m. I stood up 20 minutes from home to stretch and the bottoms of both my quads tried to cramp. Must have been more dehydrated than last time I biked. That may have been the last time biking for this year.

Weather was crazy. High of 68 today. A brutal hot summer transitioning into a long warm fall by way of 3 months of drought. The trees seem confused. Lots of stretches where all the leaves are down, others where leaves are still green.

An additional note:

Coming down a hill at about 25 mph on KY 1268, the wind almost blew me over. I really am getting too old for biking on these country roads. My plan is to bike until I get a serious injury. Hmmm, surely there's a better way to know when I should quit?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Zero History

"Zero History" is William Gibson's latest. He once again turns to the modern world of "Pattern Recognition" and "Spook Country", where he somehow is able to make anti-marketing fashion trends seem numinous and liminal. These are his best books since "Neuromancer" in 1984.

There were at least a couple of dozen places where Gibson's surreal metaphors and turn of phrase made me laugh out loud. I almost wanted to be kind of live-blogging as I read it and capturing them.

One of the main characters is a recovering drug addict (diazepams). He talks about how "when you first get an addiction, it is bright and shiny and makes everything more interesting. But then it gradually starts making all your decisions, and it has less brain than a goldfish." In terms of the number of neurons involved, that may not be too far off.

He also makes a statement that reading was his gateway drug. Hmmm. I wonder if there is a correlation between liking to get out of the normal world into a book and liking to get out of your normal mind into a drugged state. I saw a headline recently on a correlation between youthful genius and alcoholism in later years, but I didn't read the article.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When the Revolution Comes, They Won't Recognize It

Not quite sure what to make of the "Makers" movement. I have read this blog post several times, and it still does not all seem to be sinking in.

Just as the ease of copying music has wreaked havoc with IP there, the spread of cheap 3D printers and DNA sequencers will also wreak havoc. So many of the concepts of current Intellectual Property and patent law are so outrageous. Like corporations being granted patents for portions of the human genome. Or the ridiculous software patents out there, of which the big software companies file hundreds, which they then grant each other rights to use (or not), essentially freezing small players out or the market.

It will be interesting to see how big pharma, one of the most potent political forces in medicine, reacts when the 3rd world starts cranking out their drugs for pennies on the dollar. Particularly when the drugs are serious lifesavers.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Close But No Cigar

So the Faux News "Outrage of the Day" yesterday was that President Obama's five day trip to India, Indonesia, and Japan was going to cost taxpayers $1 billion dollars!!! And in tough economic times like these!!!

Faux based this figure on five days times $200 million a day, a number which came from an Indian newspaper.

The only problem is, that number is high by a factor of 20. The real number is more like $10 million a day, for a $50 million total.

Wow, off by a factor of 20. Not very close, no sir, not very close at all. How embarassing. I bet Faux News is going to go to great lengths to let its viewers know how badly it misinformed them.

Or not.

Compression Algorithms Redux

So quite a while ago, I did a post that computed the amount of storage to snapshot the state of a human brain at 10,000 terabytes -- now known as 10 petabytes. I posted that number to Charlie Stross's blog -- which has some really good discussions -- and someone commented, "But surely you'd compress the data."


The state of a brain is obviously highly compressible. And, the deltas to that state, when you turn the snapshot into a movie, ditto. So my prediction is that, whoever first comes up with the most efficient and natural algorithm for compressing brain state will be the first to achieve hard AI.

Almost five years ago, in a book review I had posted "Theories Are Compression Algorithms". And, more and more, I think that compression algorithms might be What It's All About (as opposed to the hokey-pokey).

It is somewhat reminiscent of another old post "The Universe Is Information", talking about Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science", and its premise: that the base substance of the universe is information, and all physical processes are computations.

This had led me to kind of conclude that the smallest system that could simulate the universe was the universe itself -- seems somewhat self evident. But, with compression algorithms, that might no longer be the case. Via data compression, we can conceivably describe the state of the universe in an amount of matter considerably smaller than the entire universe.

But if we do that, then the versions of ourselves in the simulation could presumably use compression algorithms and model their state, and so on ad infinitum. Or could they? Would the laws of, what, information processing (???), be different in the simulated universe?

Back in the day, I had pictured our pulsating universe as a wavicle in a larger universe, and each wavicle in our universe as its own pulsating universe, going up and down for say 10^640 or so levels, but with the snake biting its tail so that there is no top or bottom (or more importantly, no privileged frame). Now we can picture that same model, but with compression algorithms on the information of the universe as the mechanism of how we move down to the next level. Hmmm.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I May Have Overdone It

Beautiful morning for biking, a little brisk at first. Got to Midway and decided that, since I'd eaten at Azur twice in the past week, I should keep going. So went on to Spring Hill Station, then back through downtown Versailles, 43.4 miles, 3h25m. Legs not great, butt definitely hurts.
Early on saw two huge red-tailed hawks, on Van Meter and on Redd. The 2nd one paced me for a while, it was doing 16 mph stoking real easy. Saw a third hawk up in a tree on Military Pike when almost home, couldn't tell what kind it was.
Took a pic of a stand of sycamores west of Paynes Depot about 1/2 mile north of Old Frankfort Pike.
I noticed riding that I'm thinking about politics, blogging, taking pix, music, and not spending near enough time in the Here and Now. Prolly need to do some yoga or otherwise adjust my neuro-receptor mix to get the self-plex to quiet down some.
Internationally renowned guitarist, the inimitable Ben Lacy was playing at Azur last night. He's added "Today's Tom Sawyer" by Rush to his repertoire. He finished the set with Steely Dan "Aja", probably one of the most complex songs in the modern pop corpus. In the 5 or so years we've been listening to Lacy, he has continuously improved. That's what comes of lots of practice.
Speaking of which, I have had the misfortune to see 8 or so videos of myself performing. Ouch. Off-key singing (way beyond blue notes), never a clean solo. My rhythm guitar playing is probably what I'm going best, far less suckish than the other two. I am thinking I will refrain from playing in public until I can practice more regularly.
Time to call some voters. I really don't like doing this, but, soldiering on ...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Random Paul's Top 10 Randomisms

I named him "Random Paul" because I was guessing no one would be able to predict what came out of his mouth. He surely did not disappoint. We don't just have a top 10, we have a baker's dozen!

I have also given each randomism a rating from 0 to 3 points in the following categories, which reflect various aspects of the simple yet complex package that is Random Paul:

  • sense of entitlement (E);
  • self-serving (S);
  • naivete/cluelessness, often from those Libertarian principles of his (N);
  • not from around here (Kentucky, not the planet Earth) (F for furriner);
  • delusional (D).
So, let's get started!
#13. "I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."

??? Obama administration officials are critical of British Petroleum creating the largest oil leak in history, off the coast of Louisiana, and its un-American ???

E+1, N+1, D+1

#12. Aqua Buddha

Yes, the attack ad was smarmy, but: you do stupid stuff in college, you run for national office, you will get called on it. You then say "I was young and stupid and I'm sorry I did it" or "It was just youthful hijinks" or "I didn't inhale". But not Random, no sir. He calls everyone liars and affects great outrage. He probably had just finished the Faux News "Outrage 101" course and wanted to practice.

E+2, D+1

#11. "Medicare deductibles need to be raised to $2000."

Sure, he was just speaking hypothetically.


#10. "I don't think anyone's going to be missing a hill or two here or there."

Unless you grew up there. Or hunted there. Or watched the sun set there.

Mountain top removal mining is visible from space.

E+1, N+1, F+2

#9. "Repeal the 16th Amendment and replace the graduated income tax with a sales tax."

Sales taxes (31% in this case) are well known to be regressive -- the less money you make, the greater a percentage of your income you pay.

S+1, E+1, N+1

#8. Drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky: "I don't think it's a real pressing issue"

And we don't need any Federal funding to try to do something about being the oxycodone capital of the US.

N+2, F+3, D+1

#7. "Keep Kentuckians' tax dollars home."

Instead of sending them to those wastrels in Washington. The only problem is, Kentucky is a poor state and receives back from Washington $1.50 for every $1.00 it sends in.

Oops. I would have thought a doctor would be a little better at math.

N+3, F+2, D+1

#6. "Physicians deserve to make a comfortable living."

The rest of us, not so much???

This was in opposition to lowering Medicare reimbursement rates. Government programs bad, bad, bad -- unless they're putting money in Random's pocket.

E+2, S+3, N+1

#5. "It's famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard."

Random was trying to figure out why Harlan County was famous. All he could come up with was that it was near Hazard, famous for "the dukes of". Never heard of Bloody Harlan.

"There exists a virtual reign of terror (in Harlan County), financed in general by a group of coal mine operators in collusion with certain public officials: the victims of this reign of terror are the coal miners and their families." -- Governor Ruby Laffoon, 1935.

N+2, F+3

#4. "Maybe sometimes accidents happen."

And miners die. Or oil workers die. But hopefully, the CEO of BP has "gotten his life back" now that he's been fired.

E+2, N+1, F+2

#3. "You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here."

In saying why the federal government should not be involved in mine safety and inspection. The mine owners own the local government as well as the mines, in addition to having considerable clout at the state level. But, I'm sure that the mine owners are all kindler and gentler now.

Random continues "If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.” Yah, there are lots of other jobs for them to apply for in most coal towns.

E+2, S+1, N+2, F+3, D+1

#2. "It's a crowd control problem."

Random's supporters/Brownshirts throw a defenseless woman to the curb and one of them stomps on her head. Random's campaign disassociates itself from the stomper -- their Bourbon county chairman -- but doesn't return his $1900 contribution.

It's not "a crowd control problem" when teabaggers nationwide engage in thuggish behavior. Faux News and Rush Blowhard and their ilk scream "get mad, get outraged, get angry" 24x7. And they're surprised when things like this happen? I think not.

The stomper wants the stompee to apologize to him. I guess it's the Republican way -- the guy Darth Cheney shot wound up apologizing to him.

E+2, S+1, N+1, D+1

#1. "I R A Certifying Board"

Random Paul doesn't think it's fair that The American Board of Ophthalmology is grandfathering in older diplomates (who were given undated certificates) such that they don't have to recertify (but he does). So he creates his own certifying board (7 diplomates so far), with himself as president, his wife as vice-president, and his father-in-law as secretary. He creates his own certification board, and hangs a certificate on his office wall saying he's "board certified" -- to me, that is fraud, pure and simple.

Libertarians I have discussed this with say:

  1. "Patients should be responsible for researching the certificate he hangs on his wall."
  2. "I admire that, he figured out a way to beat the system and took it."
The more I find out about Libertarianism, or Anarcho-Capitalism as my niece Julie most astutely labeled it, the more it seems to me to be a form of sociopathy. I wonder if there's a genetic component? Maybe they have fewer mirror neurons, which cause us to feel what others feel, and are the source of our natural empathy?

E+2, S+3, D+2

Of course, as his handlers reined him in and muzzled him, he's repudiated probably half of these statements.

Let's see how those ratings turned out (drum roll; results being tabulated by spreadsheet). And the winner is:

  • naivete/cluelessness (N) 16
  • sense of entitlement (E) 15
  • furriner (F) 15
  • self-serving (S) 9
  • delusional (D) 8
If Random does get elected, I would expect we won't have to be embarrassed too long. A year tops, he will get his book deal, pull a Palin and quit, and go to work full time for Faux News. Random's adherence to that most sacred of Libertarian principles, selfishness, demands nothing less.

One last piece of random Random coverage: the toupee!

I thought that it was just a bad perm until my sister pointed out that googling "Rand Paul toupee" gets 15,000 matches. (Googling "rand paul stomp" now gets 23,200,000 matches. Millions spent for World Equestrian Games, and now we go from being Horse Capital of the World to Head Stomping Capital of the World.) Wow, it has its own Facebook page! Here he has a chance to bond with his fellow male-pattern-baldness sufferers, like me, and he instead decides to live in a pretend world of "I still have hair". Tsk, tsk, tsk -- we should have added "narcissism" to our list of personality traits above. A number 2, 1, or 0 all over is the answer, not a rug.

The top three comments from a lengthy blog discussion:

  • I kept waiting for Rand Paul’s hairpiece to rise up and say “I can haz cheeseburger?”
  • Now that I think about it, though, it’s wonderful that someone has finally found a practical use for a Tribble.
  • Somebody stole the tail off that poor man’s Davy Crockett hat.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Yellow Lines

What a beautiful day to be on a bike. Temperature perfect, but headwinds all the way home. I decided to try the Legacy Trail again. 15.7 miles from my house to the Horse Park. The trail is nice and flat, but on the whole trip, I had to stop for lights and come out of a clip 3 times. I think I prefer the county roads. Came back Ironworks to Yarnallton -- headwinds 5-10 mph as soon as I turned onto Yarnallton to head south.

The new yellow lines were an accident. Instead of going right on Greendale off of Spurr, I went right on Sandersville. Residential, but it connects Georgetown to Leestown, right? Wrong. I had to take Masterson Station to Leestown and come in to Alexandria rather than out.

Fell over on Parkers Mill. Tried to go around on the right a minivan stopped for the light at Lane Allen. Front wheel went into the grass, which sloped down pretty steeply. Over to the left I went, on the road in front of the minivan. The woman driving it (about my age) got out and was concerned. "I'm OK, totally my fault, sorry." Small scrape on the left elbow, slightly sprained left wrist (worse than the last time I did this). Worse injury was of course to my pride. Hopefully I can play Wednesday. I played my political song last Wednesday at Lynagh's. Off-key singing worse than the 2 bars where I forgot the chords, I wanted to try again. Last sprained wrist I had I did not play the following Wednesday.

New music wise, the new Clapton, "Clapton", is really good. All over the place, some nasty swamp boogie grooves, and two (2!) Fats Waller songs, oh yeah!. Also got two more Sufjan Stevens: "Michigan", very nice, 3 stars, and his brand new one, "The Age of Adz", way weird techno and electronica backgrounds, also 3 stars. "Illinoise" remains his best.

Working on "Random Paul's 10 Best Randomisms" for next weekend. Want to make sure and not miss any. His handlers are muzzling him better lately.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Keeneland Kids

So I was at Keeneland today, with one of my wife's groups of coworkers. Beautiful Sunday afternoon, high in the upper 70's, bright sunshine, mild cooling breezes.

I would estimate that 15-20% of the patrons were children, of all ages.

Growing up, my dad loved to bet on the horses, and would go to Churchill Downs, occasionally accompanied by my mom. Going to the track involved Gambling, which was well known to be A Dangerous Adult Activity. There was never, ever any question of the kids accompanying them to the track.

So what do I make of today? I don't think that it's a function of, I am older than dirt. I would guess that this is an attitude unique to Lexington, KY, The Horse Capitol of the World. Keeneland has a special place in the heart of Lexington. It only runs 6 weeks a year. And a disproportionate number of local residents make some or all of their livelihood from the horse industry. Hence, hell yeah, bring the kids out to the track ?!?!?

Comments? Is there any other city in the US where parents would vaguely consider taking their kids to the racetrack to be a fine, respectable Sunday afternoon activity?

Alexander Jablokov

Phew, finally finished reading the Ruby/Rails book, now for something fun.

Alexander Jablokov was a sci-fi author who wrote some very good novels in the early '90s. "Carve The Sky" was an art murder mystery. "A Deeper Sea" gave us talking dolphins that everybody wished would just shut up. But then he kind of disappeared.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I was browsing in Joseph-Beth Booksellers during my brother Mark's signing of his novel "Shine", to see a new Jablokov novel. I started reading "Brain Thief" yesterday. I'm halfway through, so far a lot of fun. Breakneck pace, new characters practically every chapter, nice cheap detective feel.

According to Jablokov's website, sounds like he did a day job and kids for 12 years. Great that he's back writing, Joe Bob sez, check it out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sci-fi Recommendations Off the Top of My Head

The Uplift Trilogy, David Brin.

Anything by Dan Simmons. "Hyperion" and "Fall of Hyperion" are literary, I am rereading soon, for the 4th-5th time.

Gregory Benford "Great Sky River" has several sequels.

Charles Stross is the best new author of the last 5 years.

William Gibson -- "Neuromancer" in 1984 created cyberpunk. Some of the sequels to that were weak, his last 3 novels are totally back in his prime.

Bruce Sterling. Lucius Shepard. Greg Egan. Alexander Jablokov.

Jack McDevitt -- astro-archeology. John Barnes.

Every year, I buy "The Year's Best Science Ficton", edited by Gardner Dozois, currently in its 27th year. That's where you spot the up-and-comers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Rest of the Story

So I posted this to Facebook after playing last night. In the interest of being kinder, gentler, reconciliatory, etc, I pulled it and removed the last two sentences. Here's the original rant.
Random Paul
wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and replace the graduated income tax with a sales tax -- the less money you make, the greater a percentage of your income you pay! Wow, fabulously forward-thinking idea!

I bet the rich people are really mad that they would have to pay so much less than the somewhat less than fair share they pay now!

Teabagger, Republican, Conservative, Libertarian -- I think it's a sliding scale of how far back they want to set the Wayback Machine. It's an increasing scale of sociopathy. Greater good? F### that, me, me, me!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

WHAT’S NEW by Robert L. Park

You can still only get his Friday newsletter by email, so I can't link to it. Here's the first item from yesterday, very well said:

The most essential qualification for a Nobel Prize is often longevity. Now 85 and in failing health; Prof. Edwards was a graduate student at the University of Edinburg in Scotland when he conceived the idea of in vitro fertilization. His colleague, surgeon Patrick Steptoe, died in 1988. The Catholic Church, which opposes IVF, invented the superstition that, at the moment the haploid male and female gametes intertwine in the womb to form a diploid zygote, the Holy Ghost assigns it a soul, thus making it a person. The head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which speaks for the Vatican on medical ethics, criticized the choice of Edwards as, "Completely out of order... Without Edwards there wouldn’t be freezers full of embryos waiting to be used for research, or to die abandoned and forgotten by everyone." Poor things. But he’s not talking about a person or even an embryo; this is a single, undifferentiated cell, human only to the extent that it contains human DNA. So do my nail clippings – but I do not mourn for them. The world needs neither the archaic superstitions of religion, nor more unwanted children. Every IVF child is a wanted child.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Music In

Erica has chided me for communicating with her privately about recent "Music In" rather than blogging about it here. So, I will correct my error.

In particular, after Erica had recommended it for years, I finally purchased "Illinoise", by Sufjan Stevens when it was on sale at amazon for $5. 22 tracks, catchy tunes, great variety in orchestration, instrumentation, and time signatures -- I like one song that alternates between 5 and 6 beats per measure, reminiscent of the Radiohead that alternates between 7 and 8. Really nice album, 4 stars.

I followed that up with "The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album". 21 more tracks, still $5. And the 3 remixes of "Chicago" are different enough that I don't mind them, as I normally do remixes.

The only thing not to like about these is that per Wikipedia, Sufjan (which means "comes with a sword" in ancient Persian) was raised by cultist parents; occasionally has somewhat religious overtones; and actually published a "christian" album. Hopefully he will outgrow this.

Note, this was seriously emo stuff (don't hear that too much anymore), as is our next group.

Greatly enjoyed "The Rhumb Line" by Ra Ra Riot, out of Syracuse. Reviews say reminincent of Vampire Weekend, but they're contemporary or before, so I don't think they should be labeled as just a copy. I really like the cello and violin that are permanent members. Track #5, "Winter '05", really struck me. I am almost embarrassed to post the video thereof, as it demonstrates me to be a hopeless romantic. Sad, sad, sad. 4 stars for this album. I think only three for their next album, "The Orchard".

Also got the latest Of Montreal "False Priest". Not as good as the prior, but still some LOL lyrics from the gayest music that I have ever heard. Three stars.

All over the place -- rap, hip-hop, dance, R&B -- is "The ArchAndroid", by Janelle Monae, an Of Montreal collaborator. 18, tracks, quite an effort, and also on sale for $5 at amazon (ouch, also now back to $7.99, should have posted sooner, sorry). Three stars, probably a few will go to four.

The New Pornographers, "Together". A very nice album, after just a few listens some of the songs felt like old friends. Three stars.

Interpol, "Interpol". Didn't do much for me, three stars (just barely).

Finally, "Lonely Avenue", by Ben Folds, to lyrics by Nick Hornby. If you like Ben Folds, highly recommended, it is vintage stuff. Hornby is at least as much a smart-ass as Folds. I particularly liked "Levi Johnston's Blues" -- a great american saga. Four stars.

I've been trying to use iTunes Ping, without much luck. I can follow artists, but I like stuff (which you have to do at the track level rather than the album level) or post stuff and it seems to go in the bit bucket?!?!? I did a one line review of one album, that seemed to stick. I see where one of my Ping friends bought an album -- presumably on iTunes, which I never do. So far, so bad.

Very Nice. Completely on Point. Not a Single Distracting Digression.

My brother Mark just emailed me this. I really like it. The title says it all.
To the Editor:

Rand Paul recently quoted Ronald Reagan thusly: “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Still, Republicans across the country are blasting Obama and the Democrats for not creating more jobs, as if they want it both ways.

Which is it? Should government stay out of the private sector and let business run unchecked and unfettered? Or, should government keep a firm hand on the tiller of American commerce to stimulate job growth and ensure we don’t suffer another catastrophic economic meltdown?

Wall Street and the financial sector fought for 30 years to have their industry deregulated. But once their deregulated house of cards collapsed, they all clamored for and received multibillion-dollar bailouts from the federal government. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

Sure, we’re all frustrated with the lackluster state of the economy just now, and Rand Paul and the Tea Party movement have done a great job of capitalizing on that frustration. Unfortunately, they offer little more than bluster and balderdash at a time when we need professionalism and sound policy making.

Rand Paul is not a professional politician. Aside from his nomination to run for senate, his main political accomplishment has been his creation of what is essentially his own private licensing board which certified him as an accredited ophthalmologist.

Rand Paul is certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology, which is an organization led by Rand Paul. Rand Paul’s board has recognized just seven doctors to do ophthalmology as opposed to the 16,000 certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology.

That sort of rakish individualism might appeal to some voters, but it clearly illustrates Rand Paul’s disinclination to play by the rules, any rules. Apparently, he wants to make up his own rules as he goes along, rules which are entirely self-serving, and rules that ignore traditional morays and values.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, on the other hand, strongly defends and advocates those rules and laws which ensure the public good. He is a seasoned team player, not a flash-in-the-pan maverick like Rand Paul.

Jack Conway is a conservative Democrat, whereas Rand Paul is not a conservative anything. Rand Paul is a radical, plain and simple, with radical and dangerous ideas such as increasing the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare, and placing a huge deductible on Medicare.

Now more than ever, we need proven and professional politicians in the U.S Senate. We need Jack Conway to serve as our next senator from Kentucky.

Very, very well said. I hope the Courier-Journal prints it.

Random Paul's act of founding his own medical certifying board (which I blogged here) totally sticks in my craw . He creates his own certification board, and hangs a certificate on his office wall saying he's "board certified" -- to me, that is fraud, pure and simple. Libertarians I have discussed this with say:

  1. "Patients should be responsible for researching the certificate he hangs on his wall."
  2. "I admire that, he figured out a way to beat the system and took it."
Self-serving to the point of sociopathy is my diagnosis. :-(

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Things Bears Love

Laughed until I cried. Given to a coop by one of our senior developers as a reward for getting some cool new stuff working.

Surely Not

I'm going try and change the posting style, more to shorter, single topic posts. Hopefully more of them.

So, I can't get over the US Supreme Court's decision to allow unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns, so as not to infringe their right to free speech. This is so contrary to any common sense approach to the Bill of Rights that it totally boggles the mind. And we are already seeing the effects in this midterm election. There are numerous attack ads on Democratic candidates by national groups that no one has ever heard of.

So the question is, did the Supreme Court somehow get bought off? I would have thought that that was impossible. They have lifetime tenure. You would think that achieving what I would guess is the ultimate goal of every legalist would make them very sensitive to their legacy.

I guess I should find the decision and read it -- but that's definitely not my cup of tea. Oh well, I guess I'll just hope "surely not".

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Friend Is Back

After a very nice 3-day weekend in Raleigh, NC, on Monday we came home to an empty bird bath, which I filled. Shortly thereafter, my friend the Cooper's hawk was back. I think that this is a testament to the depth of the drought we have had since the start of August.

I tried to move around and get a picture of the tail from the other side, but it saw me and flew off. It was there again tonight, but it saw me and flew off before I could get another picture.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

New Yellow Highlighting!

After at least a couple of years of adding no new yellow highlighting to my bicycling maps -- which means I hadn't been on any new roads -- I get to add some today! I wanted to try the brand new Legacy Trail from downtown out to the horse park. So went through Ft. Harrods Park and picked up the Beaumont walking trails and then cut through the baseball park to come out on Parkers Mill. Took that in to Versailles Rd (bike lane from Alexandria in a few blocks), then in to the new Oliver Lewis Way (bike lane) and onto Newtown Pike, which I was surprised to find had a bike lane the whole way out to the Northside YMCA on Loudon Ave, where I picked up the trailhead.

I guess that the 10 or so strips of orange tape blocking the trail in the 1st 50 or so yards should have told me that the trail was not open yet. Oops. Another biker told me that the official opening is next Sunday. There were definitely quite a few "Oh shit" moments due to the ongoing construction. But, made it through OK to the trail's end at the entrance to the Kentucky Horse Park Campground, 14.8 miles from my house.

It looks like Legacy Trail is going to connect with other trails in Coldstream. This is a great addition for bikers and walkers. Now I just need something similar to get me downtown :( I wouldn't want to try Versailles Rd during any daylight hours other than what I just did, 9:15 Sunday morning.

Came back Ironworks Pike to Yarnallton (50 yards on Georgetown Rd) to Elkchester. 34.4 miles, 2 stops, 2h45m, a beautiful cool morning.

Herald Leader had another article on the billionaires who created the Tea Party movement. Here's the FB post:

Some good historical background. Ultra-rich industrialists who have zero use for things like environmental protection, workplace safety, workers rights, unemployment insurance, or social security have been funneling mass quantities of $$$ to "grass roots" groups to fight "big government" since 1934. I think owning Fox News has put them over the top this go-round.
The article mentions The John Birch Society. Man, I hadn't thought of that in prolly 40 years. Of course, I will now be unable to get this song out of my head all day.

Also posted to FB: a nice Roger Ebert post. "Put Up or Shut Up" -- not likely. As I've already observed, Palin and Glenn Dick are making 10s of millions of $$$ just being outraged from the sidelines. Altho, I did see in an article on Dick as huckster, charlatan, and recovering alcoholic which said that he has booked the largest auditorium in Alaska for 9/12/2011. A Dick-Palin presidential ticket? Too good to be true.

Also posted a link to Christopher Hitchens' review of Glenn Dick's rally: "large, vague, moist, and undirected—the Waterworld of white self-pity".

Listening to new The New Pornographers album "Together" now. Also recently got John Legend "Evolver" 2008; india.arie "Acoustic Soul" 2001. The new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Mojo" has some very tasty and creative guitar work on it. New Arcade Fire "The Suburbs" not doing too much for me.

Also went back and harvested the best Rolling Stones albums: "Beggars Banquet", "Let It Bleed", and "Sticky Fingers". Man, I think I've played pretty much every one of these at one time or other.

One I've always enjoyed doing is "Prodigal Son". I was thinking about it, I think that was a parable from the new testament, yes? So, the story is, a young man leaves home to seek his fortune, doesn't do so well, goes back home to a royal welcome from his father. So far so good, yes? Youthful ambition, hardships, parental love -- real human stories and emotions.

But then, if remember correctly, none other than JC himself follows up with "so this is just the way that god is happy when a sinner returns to him". Oops. Real human stories and emotions now followed by meaningless religious blather.

So the thing that I find so annoying in modern religious ceremonies -- shoehorning god in where he has no business (wait, that's everywhere, isn't it) -- goes back to Jebus himself. Well, I guess he was a pretty religious guy after all, not just a champion of rights for the downtrodden.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teabagger Weekend, Part Deux

So I posted to Facebook (guilty) a nice analysis of Glenn Dick's "we're not racists" rally by Christopher Hitchens.

I received a negative comment from my musician friend Max Corona. I would like to respond to two of his statements.

"Our country is in the toilet." -- Well, W. must have forgot to flush.

Rush Blowhard and Glenn Dick were calling for Obama's impeachment on his first day of office. I was taught that patriotic Americans get behind every new president, regardless of party, and give them at least a little chance to pull the country together and lead -- say 90 days.

But not our super-patriots, no sir! They're making 10s of millions of $$$ shouting at people and making them angry, they're not going to let something as unimportant as the future of our country get in the way of their income. In 1992 Rush Blowhard was the same way with Clinton: he called for his impeachment the day Clinton was inaugurated.

"People have had enough" -- enough of what, exactly?

Obama is fighting, fighting, fighting to get us out of the hole Bush left us in. Time and time again he tried to get input from everyone involved and got nothing but complete and 100% obstructionism from the Republicans. So again, enough of what?

If it's "enough" of the Fox News "outrage of the day", do yourself a favor and stop watching Fox News. It is 100% and completely a propaganda organ of the Republican Party. The president of Fox News, Roger Ailes, was media consultant for Nixon, Reagan, and Bush #1, and is currently considered to be the most powerful Republican in the US. The Wikipedia article says he may run for president in 2012, but, why would he? Like Glenn Dick and Sarah "Hooked on Phonics" Palin (aka "The Quitter"), it's much easier to sit on the sidelines, get outraged once a day, make 10s of millions a year, and not have to actually serve your country.

I was having lunch yesterday with a very bright young architect. Fox News was on the TV -- the blonde who looks like she just bit into a really sour pickle (I wonder if they get sneering lessons from Darth Cheney? Didn't his mother tell him his face would get stuck if he kept screwing it up like that?). "If Fox News won't make you mad, nothing will." was his offhanded comment -- how true, and how sad for this country.

I hear that MSNBC is bad the other way -- so don't watch them either. During the election (the only time I watch TV news), I watched CNN, and they had both liberal and conservative commentators -- seemed fair to me. But their ratings greatly trail both Fox and MSNBC -- the analysis being, people don't want both sides, they just want their side :-(

Response over. Back to Glenn Dick's "we're not racists" rally. They really did do an admirable job of toning everything down. I already discussed two of its themes: "christian", which excludes me along with probably half of the immigrants to the US in the last 20 years; and "values of the founding fathers", which basically translates to state rights, which make it much easier for the hereditary capitalist oligarchs (aka old money) to control things and keep their sacred traditions, such as slavery, safe from "northern aggression".

Their third theme was "Honor the military". Two of my brothers served, and all our hearts go out completely to those with family members currently fighting for the US. That said, I'm betting that former Haliburton CEO Darth Cheney still has major influence in Republican circles -- can you say, "military-industrial complex" -- against which we were warned by the man who coined the term, former general and Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower?

Did you know that the military budget of the US is currently almost as much as the rest of the world combined? That's it's 10 times that of China?

Boy, won't it be great to get the Neoconservatives back in control?

One thing's for sure tho, if the jobless rate does not go down, Obama probably will not be reelected. Hard times tend to bring out the worst in people. I recently read one of the saddest and scariest stories I've read in a while in "The Year's Best Science Fiction (27th Annual Collection)": "Escape to Other Worlds With Science Fiction", by Jo Walton. The Axis wins WW2, the Great Depression never ends, and we can't betray each other fast enough :-(

Much as I'd love to blast them, I don't think I can blame the slow recovery on Republicans or capitalist oligarchs. I saw yesterday that there are over 10 million unoccupied houses in the US now. We really, really did overbuild in the last boom. And real estate is usually what leads us out of a recession. Oops.

I wonder how many homeless there are in the US? As of 2008, looks like tops of 2.5 million. So there are 4x vacant houses as there are homeless in the US??? Maybe the homeless numbers are much worse with all the foreclosures? I wouldn't think so, I would think most of those people went back to rental properties more within their means, but, with the high unemployment, maybe not?

Hmmm, maybe we need to see if we can get some more Mexicans up here to soak up that surplus housing? Or maybe sub-Saharan Africans? Or, even better, some Indonesian Moslems?

To capture another post I made to FB, I was starting to worry that I wouldn't get to rant about the ultra-rich any more, what with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet talking half of the richest people in the US into leaving much of their money to charity. But then, saved by the Koch Brothers! Thanks guys! Eat the rich, oh yeah, eat the rich -- the flesh is sooo nicely marbled!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Teabagger Weekend

You can tell it's a big Teabagger weekend. Riding my bike I saw a pickup truck flying the stars and bars (in addition to the stars and stripes). 9/12 driving to Naples we saw 2 or 3 40-50 foot confederate flags flying. But teabaggers aren't racist, no sir, not at all. They want to "return to the values of the founding fathers" -- and if half of the founding fathers happened to be slave owners, no biggie.

I say, enough of such half-ass measures, let's return to the values of the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta! Why regress to 18th century values when we can regress to 13th century values? Now you're talking!

I laugh when conservatives talk about "the values of the founding fathers", as if these guys were able to foresee the evolution of the US and the world for centuries to come. They were revolutionaries, steering by the seat of their pants. They didn't know how things were going to turn out. And if something didn't work, they tried something else. Duh. I believe that they would be very pleasantly surprised at how their great experiment is turning out.

I think that appeals to "the values of the founding fathers" are code for "state rights". And, frankly, for many, many things, state rights are not the way to go, because, it's too easy to buy a state government.

That's why Random Paul's assertion that coal mine regulation and inspection should be handled completely locally makes you want to cry. The coal barons own the governments of those counties, the chances that they're going to "do the right thing" when it conflicts with their margins are slim to none.

Here's another example, from USA Today: "Study: Drinking water polluted by coal-ash dump sites".

The electric power industry is lobbying to keep regulation up to individual states, but environmental groups argue states have failed to protect the public and EPA should set and enforce a national standard.
Much easier to buy state officials than it is Feds.

Another of the teabagger code words is "christian values". This is just a way to exclude newer non-christian immigrants from Africa and the near and far east. In the 19th century, the WASP majority used their catholicism as an excuse to exclude Irish, Italian and German immigrants. Same old tricks. To quote Bob Dylan, 1963:

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
"You got more than blacks, don't complain
You're better than them, you been born with white skin" they explain
And the Negro's name
Is used it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.
You keep hoping that as older conservative reactionary types die off, these old reactionary attitudes will die off with them. I smile when I'm out biking Sunday mornings and see church parking lots filled with 90% white-hairs. And, we are making progress, we did elect Barack Obama. But, the powers-that-be, the good old boys, the ones born with the silver spoons in their mouths and their dupes, will not give up, and we can't either.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cooper's Hawk in the Bird Bath

This summer has definitely been miserable hot. Apparently the resident avian predator of our neighborhood thought so too. I took the picture from in the house, zoomed (note the screen). I was sure if I tried to get outside to take it he would fly off. He flew off anyway about a minute after I took the picture. He was buzzed by grackles twice in that period.

The bird bath is 21 inches across, so I would make the hawk like 17 inches from beak to the end of the tail, wingspan maybe 28 inches.

I searched the blog for "hawk", we first saw the Cooper's Hawk Thanksgiving of 2007. I wonder if it's the same bird or a descendant. Cool. Cornell Lab Of Ornithology has a great bird book, which says oldest known Cooper's Hawk was 20 years and 4 months old -- so I'd guess that it's the same bird.

Hmmm, the article says that if you don't want the hawk using your bird feeders as a hunting ground to take them down for a few days and the hawk will "move on". I doubt that would work. I've seen this guy all over our neighborhood, we'd probably all have to coordinate to get him to move on. Plus, seems like he lives here, just as we do. Oh well. The article says he mostly likes bigger birds and lists starlings first, so more power to him.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

It Would Never Have Worked

I thought I had blogged on this before but couldn't find anything. Oh well.

The wife and I saw "Inception" last night. Very nice, good acting, nice pacing, wonderful logical consistency. A bit of a thinker, but no where near the mental tickle of "Mememto".

But, it just didn't quite work for me because: the wonderfully complex plan that gets carried out was way too complex to ever have succeeded on the first try.

Think about playing Mousetrap as a kid. It never worked right the first time. You always had to tweak this, nudge that.

In the mid-80s, scientists almost universally opposed Reagan's Star Wars missile defense system because there would have no way to test the fabulously complex software. Maybe now you we have enough computing power that you simulate it, but, still, who is willing to trust that?

In some ways, it's Intelligent Design vs. Evolution. The Intelligent Design is bound to forget things, need tweaking, want some do-overs. Evolution just keeps on keepin' on, if it lives fine, otherwise, au revoir Pee-wee.

I think that this is a cognitive illusion, akin to the one that "at some point the roads should be done", where we just don't want to admit that the roads always need maintenance. We want to believe that incredibly elaborate plans can be executed perfectly the first time, and normally they can't. Hence the many incremental steps towards the 1st moon landing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Surprisingly Cool

Biked this morning 8:30 to 11:10. Surprisingly cool breezes even towards the end. 33.6 miles, top speed 35.9 mph (???). Delaney Ferry to James to McGee to Shannawood to Dry Ridge to Scott Ferry. Back in McCracken Pike, Huntertown, and Parkers Mill.

On Dry Ridge, saw a red-headed woodpecker. The white bar on their lower back and wings is really striking. Then I saw 3 of them in a tree, squabbling with 4 kingbirds. Both of these I've only seen further out in the countryside, and this was the first time I'd seen either species flocking. The bird book says that kingbirds get their name from being very territorial and aggressive and attacking larger birds, even crows -- the woodpeckers are slightly larger than they are.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sin #4: Hampering The Use Of Birth Control Worldwide

Man, I started this series February 6 and here it is July 17 -- must be as boring to me as it is to you. Regardless, we have made it to the final installment.

It used to be mostly the catholic church, with its third world "breed, baby, breed" strategy for keeping its numbers up, that was the primary opponent of birth control.

But, the American neo-puritan/conservatives decided to get in on the act too. And, shocker, the Bush administration's decision to quit distributing condoms worldwide and instead distributing information on abstinence-based birth control (oxymoron?) has led to a resurgence of AIDS in Africa.

I also find the posters "We'll wait until we're married" that you see in Tennessee a hoot. Horny youngsters get married too young so they can have sex, greatly increasing their chances of divorce. Family values, my ass.

I've always found it interesting that the "Right to Breed" is so fundamental that it is nowhere in the constitution or law that I know of. The Chinese, with their one child per family policy of the last few decades, are the only case I know of a government limiting that right. We should probably make "Idiocracy" required viewing for all DINK yuppies. Actually, I think that there are enough genes for smartness spread throughout the gene pool that smart people will come from every economic strata, racial group, etc -- so I really don't worry about "Idiocracy". But, we all need to slow down before we pass the carrying capacity of the earth, if we haven't already (says the guy with 4 kids).

A couple of weeks ago I was at the catholic funeral mass for my mother's sister, the last of her generation. The priest was not a good speaker, and, increasingly, I find the religious blather dished out to be completely incomprehensible:

When she was alive, Ann loved you as a mother and as a wife. Now in heaven, she loves you as god loves you, with divine love. This is a much greater love than any earthly love. So she now loves you much more than she did when she was living.
????? Where the fuck do they get this stuff? Do they just completely pull it out of their ass? They take something real, human and wonderful -- motherly and wifely love, both probably based at least in part on the hormone oxytocin -- and render it meaningless by throwing in non sequitur assertions based on nonsense.

It is hard to lose loved ones. But we all die, and that's the end of it. They live on in us in our genes and/or in the lessons (memes) that they passed to us in their lives.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Biking at 8:15, not quite as humid, but still got an earache and sore throat after 1/2 hour, so pollen must be bad. Finally went north, Van Meter to Redd to Old Frankfort to Browns Mill to Leestown to Weizenberger Mill (pic) to Payne's Depot to Pisgah and back in Military Pike. 29 miles, 2h20m, 1 stop. After cooldown and shower, in to Louisville for jambalaya at Joe's OK Bayou and then swimming with Uncle Bruce.

On Payne's Depot, saw some young turkey buzzards. Young because:

  1. They let me get within 10 ft of them, and then they hopped off of the fence instead of flying away. Closest I've ever gotten to a turkey buzzard.
  2. They were .60-.75 of the size of an adult turkey buzzard.
  3. They still had pinfeathers on their heads, they weren't completely bald.
They're not as ugly as adult buzzards, but, they're getting there.

So on to the movie review. We saw "Winter's Bone" at the Kentucky Friday night. This was apparently the indie darling of Sundance, and, given that it's about crank cookers in the Ozarks of southern Missouri, one wonders why.

So the plot is, the unstoppable 17 YO heroine, who is taking care of her two younger siblings and her mostly catatonic mother, must find her crank-cooking father because he has used the family homestead as bond and if he misses his court date, they will lose it all -- and he appears to have gone missing.

So what is it about this movie? The acting is great -- the actress playing the 17 YO heroine is from Louisville, and she is unstoppable. And apparently, you don't have to have been in Eastern KY or the rural poverty center of your choice for it to have affected you, so here's my theory.

*** Spoiler Alert ***
This story is completely mythic. It could have been a Greek myth, a Norse myth, or a Grimm Brothers fairy tale. The young girl searches for her missing father to save her family. And the clannish, tribal nature of life out in in the Ozark hollers is completely wired into our lizard brains.

When the heroine gets beat up to discourage her from trying to talk to the pater familias of the head clan, the women do the damage. No man touches her, because that would require the men of her clan to seek retribution.

And when she finally gets to see the grandpa of the rival clan, he comes out, 70 YO, 6 ft tall, still barrel-chested, wearing a giant cowboy hat and a vest completely covered with badges, emblems and tokens!!! He is the tribal headman/shaman, completely channeling Odin the All-Father or Jehovah the Murderer of Children. I've got to see that scene again.

The poster for the movie in the lobby showed people in a boat. So it's getting towards the end of the movie, I'm wondering, where's the boat? But, of course, they save the crossing of the River Styx for the last.

This is The Old Ways. This is the clans of Scotland 500 years ago, or Scandinavia 1000 years ago, or the savannahs of Africa 100,000 years ago.

I really wonder if the writer and director realized they were tapping into such primal stuff, or if they were just telling the story as it came. I think the latter, but to me, they subconsciously must have opened a huge vein directly into the deep archetypes of our species. C.G. Jung would be proud! So, Joe Bob sez, check it out! I will second the 5 star rating it got in the Herald-Leader.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Random Paul: I R A Medical Certifying Board!

Per today's Herald-Leader, Random Paul doesn't like that The American Board of Ophthalmology is grandfathering in older diplomates (who were given undated certificates) such that they don't have to recertify (but he does).

I was Director of Information Systems at the American Board of Family Practice (now the American Board of Family Medicine) from 1980 to 1986. I acted as a computer consultant to the American Board of Radiology from 1984 to 1999. So I know something about this stuff.

The American Board of Family Medicine is one of newest -- I think that only the American Board of Emergency Medicine is newer. ABFM was founded here in Lexington in 1969. It was the first board to the require recertification. Diplomates -- those completing the certification procedure, which includes a multi-year residency program and written examination -- were given a dated certificate by ABFM, with an expiration date 7 years after the exam. The diplomates normally recertified on a 6 year cycle.

The older boards (some of whom also did oral examinations) have gradually added recertification, and pretty much all grandfathered in their diplomates who had originally been given an undated certificate. They really didn't have much choice in the matter, there were legal issues -- like if the state gave you a 4 year driver's license and then came back after 2 years and said "Sorry, you need to renew now."

The 20 something specialty boards are all members of the American Board of Medical Specialities (ABMS). They vigorously police their residency programs and their certification procedures, because they need to prove that they are a value-add -- which, from working with them, I believe they are.

So, Random Paul thinks it is SO unfair that he has to recertify, and older diplomates don't, that he founds his own medical certification board??? He's president, his wife's vice-president, his father-in-law's secretary??? As opposed to the medical boards I have worked with, there the board members and officers are all nationally recognized experts in the specialty.

And probably, this is some kind of "matter of principle" ??? In The Highest Libertarian Tradition???

The man is a nut-job. If he wants to form "The American Board of Nut-Jobs" and certify himself, I am totally behind that.

This is teabagger thinking at its finest: "I don't like it, I'm mad as hell, I don't care about reason, logic, or any kind of common sense. I'm going to take my ball and go home" -- good riddance.

Flame off ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Finally biked after a 2 month hiatus. 28 miles to Pauls Mill Rd prolly a little much. (Tiger)Lilies blooming everywhere, and, on US 33 just north of Troy, a Baltimore Oriole burst out of the foliage and paced me for a few seconds. Black and bright orange, amazing! I have only seem one of those once before, on Leestown Rd about 7-8 years ago, I think.

Orange tiger lilies and the oriole, I almost titled this "Orange" and dedicated it to my son.

I started at 8:45, it was already way humid. I did the 28 miles in ~2h20m, with a longish stop on Pauls Mill Rd. That is such a pretty road, and, when you first turn onto it off of US 33, it has a stretch where it looks flat, but you pick up speed coasting, so it's obviously downhill?!?!?

I made probably 15-20 shifting errors, but none of them were horrible. I guess that's to be expected after the long layoff.

I still haven't biked north and west -- when I was biking in April Keeneland was running so was biking south only. But can't bike south next week -- "Brains for Jebus - The Musical", aka the Icthyus Christian Music Festival, will be down that way next weekend. So next weekend I'll head north out Van Meter.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Second in a Series

Jebus is OK!!! He's in this guy's lung!!! Phew, what a relief!!!

The full story is available here.

May 28: Happy Birthday to Science!

From "What's New", the newsletter of Robert L. Park, professor emeritus at U of Maryland and noted skeptic:

On May 28, 585 B.C. the swath of a total solar eclipse passed over the Greek island of Miletus. The early Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, alone understood what was happening. The world's first recorded freethinker, Thales rejected all supernatural explanations, and used the occasion to state the first law of science: every observable effect has a physical cause. The 585 B.C. eclipse is now taken to mark the birth of science, and Thales is honored as the father. What troubles would be spared the world if the education of every child began with causality? We might, for example, have been spared the absurd cell phone/cancer myth.

You can subscribe to "What's New" here:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Facebook = not

So if I post something fabulous to my blog and get no response, no problem.

But you post something fabulous to Facebook and get: 1 child, 1 sibling, 1 coworker. I don't know. I'm tempted to just go back to the blog.

So here it is:

I found Stonewall Jackson in the marble tile floor of our 1st floor bathroom.
What's he done with Jebus? I sure hope Jebus is ok ...

This is about as funny as I can get ...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sin # 3: Hampering Scientific Research Re Stem Cells And Cloning

After some extemporaneous rants, we return to the extended, multi-part rant.

Religous opposition to stem cell and cloning research follows two themes:

  1. The "all human cells are potential people and as such may have souls" magical thinking. As in the discussion of abortion, if we are going to do everything possible to protect back to the zygote stage, then clearly these cells are off limit to any research -- even if they are being held in storage at a fertility clinic and will be destroyed if the parent couple decides they don't need them. Meanwhile, what kind of controls and limitations are there on stem cell research in China, Japan and Korea? Pretty much none. We actually wound up effectively encouraging top foreign-born researchers in these areas to return to their home countries, where their work would be encouraged by the government rather than restricted.
    It says something for the zealotry of conservatives that even in the face of a direct, emotional plea by Nancy Reagan on behalf of her beloved Ronnie -- Ronald Reagan, probably the most beloved conservative of the last 50 years -- for stem cell research as a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, she was turned down flat.
  2. The "this is the affair of god, man has no business here" cant. Fear of the various genies that science can let out of their bottles dates back to Mary Shelley and "Frankenstein". Some legitimate fears here (re Bill Joy and "Why The Future Doesn't Need Us"), but, by and large, my feeling is, you can't keep technology advances bottled up. They will break out. The sooner you realize that and make realistic plans to deal with it, the better.

Here's a little song I made up. I think you can guess the tune:
Don't give me that old time religion.
Don't give me that old time religion.
Don't give me that old time religion.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 1]
It don't know about evolution.
It don't know about relativity.
It don't know about quantum mechanics.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 2]
It wasn't there when they split the atom.
It wasn't there for the double helix.
It wasn't there for the human genome.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 32,768]

And so on ...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The iPad is Here, the iPad is Here!

So, UPS dropped off an iPad here yesterday. I had ordered the cheapest one: 16GB, Wifi only, on the 1st day you could. I thought they started at $400, oops, $500. Oh well. Two reasons for ordering:
  1. For a couple of years, I have been wanting a tablet computer that I hold in my hands and sit in a comfy chair and surf the web, read RSS feeds, read Web comics, maybe read eBooks. The iPad seemed to be just that.
  2. My wife loves her iPhone. She has hated every other computer, including a mac, that the has ever had. She reads books on it, and browses the web for hours on it. An iPad seemed like a great idea for her as well.
So, it came, I hooked it up to my PC. My idea is this is a shared resource that lives in the family room -- an electronic magazine on the coffee table. I put all my pictures on it, and 7 kids movies. BTW, two features that I hadn't heard about:
  1. a button that locks the screen orientation, I would presume for lying on your side and reading in bed.
  2. a soft button next to the "slide to unlock" that makes it a digital picture frame. Just as the iPhone replaced many devices (it's a flashlight! it's a metronome! it's a guitar tuner! ...), you wonder what devices the iPad will replace.
So the movies and pix took about 2/3 of the 16GB. No music, I decided, Pandora and web only. Then downloaded apps -- besides the top 50 paid and free in the app store this link had some good suggestions. So far, less than two screens of apps, with the personal ones (mail, notes, contacts and calendar) moved to a (hopefully unused) third screen.

The apps so far:

  • the free iBooks reader from Apple. I like this much better than the kindle. The contrast is so much better, and the larger size I also like much better. They give you one sample book, "Winnie the Pooh". The color illustrations are great. In portrait mode you read a single page, in landscape, two pages (the book is open). Tap the screen to get controls at the top for Table of Contents, and changing contrast, font size and font face, and a slider at the bottom for jumping to any page. But what I really liked was: you double tap a word, you get choices: dictionary gives you a dictionary entry; bookmark creates a bookmark there, which then shows up with the TOC; and Search will find all occurrences of the word in the book, or will search google or wikipedia! What a way to read non-fiction or scientific material, a true hyperbook.
  • ABC player (free) to go with YouTube. Recent series episodes with limited commercials. I think everyone's fingers are crossed for Hulu to show up.
  • Nat Geo World Atlas ($2) to go with Maps. Also free Weather Channel and WeatherBug. Maps look great.
  • USA Today, NPR, NY Times Editors choice, Bloomberg financial app -- all free. Readers are very clear and easy to read. The Bloomberg app is beautiful.
  • wikipanion, epicurious (recipes), pandora, free books (23,000 classics -- the reader is not near as nice as iBooks, no reason why it couldn't be), dragon dictation -- all free. Wolfram Alpha 1.99, Voice recorder 0.99.
  • The Elements, my most expensive purchase at $13.99. An interactive coffee table book on the periodic table, with two pages per element. Tons of pictures and video, really cool.
  • IMDb movie database; Adobe ideas and another free Draw program; all free.
  • A bunch of games, $9.99 to free: crosswords, scrabble, sudoku, mahjong, labyrinth, magic piano. They all look great.
  • A marvel comics reader (free) - guilty as charged.
I spent a total of $45 on apps.

Overall, viewing content on this thing is great. The downsides:

  • it is definitely a little heavy. My left hand cramped a few times holding it yesterday.
  • the typing is not great (I am a touch typist). In portrait mode, I can type OK with my thumbs like I do on the iPhone -- a person with smaller hands could not. In landscape, I was kind of touch typing the right hand keys and hunt and pecking the left hand keys with my right hand. After I went back to my iPhone, it was like "Wow, it's so light! And so easy to hold! And so much easier to type!". So, iPad is much better for reading, if you want to do serious input I would figure on getting the bluetooth keypad. I saw one review with the guy complaining how anti-web 2.0 -- the web of participation -- the iPad was, because input is hard.
All in all, tho, I think it will fill the roles that I bought it for. I think I probably won't use it much. (I might have used it to surf, read RSS, and do FB while a basketball game was on, but b-ball season is over :-<) My wife seems to definitely like it for web access from the family room. And, we actually had some kids in the house recently, I think it has stuff to keep kids occupied for a while. I've invited my older children (and spouse) to visit in the next month or so to see what apps (particularly games) they would add, because there are introductory low prices on stuff now that may go up later.

I will advise if it does wind up just being a paper weight.

Letters to the Editor

I had a letter to the editor in the Herald Leader a few weeks ago supporting health care reform. I sent this one in Friday night, in response to a letter writer justifying the Iraq war and naysaying the health care reform (which has passed!) with, "In the Bible, the story of the Good Samaritan is a classic example of non-governmental intrusion.". My response:
I would like to discuss a couple of the issues raised by Mr. J. D. Mackey in his letter of 4/2/10.

Firstly, with regard to the Iraq war, my recollection is that, although he was very belligerent and obstructionist, Sadam Hussein did finally agree to let the UN inspectors into Iraq. But, that wasn't enough for us, we decided to invade. I don't think we will ever really know why. My worst fear is that, we were too successful in Afghanistan in 2002, and Mr. Cheney and his friends at Haliburton and Blackwater had not obtained enough data on the possible profit margins of outsourcing war, and just wanted some more data.

Regardless, we invaded, and the blood of the 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died is on all of our hands. This is several dozen times the number of innocent deaths of 9/11. And, no Weapons of Mass Destruction or facilities to produce WMDs were found, and everyone agrees, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

That blood is on my hands, and on all of our hands.

Secondly, with regard to the bible, I would direct Mr. Mackey to Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35.

"2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."

"4:34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."

A bit stronger than the trickle down economics of the good samaritan, yes?

Actually, it reminds me of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" -- Karl Marx, 1875. It's a good thing that The United States is NOT a christian country -- if it were, we'd have to change the system of government from democracy to communism!

I've been answering every teabagger post I see on Facebook, and any place where I normally comment. I try to be rational, stick to just the facts. But, it's so hard. Like the letter above, reading the verses, a christian might say "Maybe there's something to think about here". But, quoting Marx and comparing christianity to communism, although accurate, is basically a cheap shot, a finger in the eye (Stoogism rules!) -- your average christian is going to take offense. Maybe I just need to do this more often to where I can stay on point more easily.

Speaking of fingers in the eye, this NSFW Bill Maher clip also explores physical metaphors for how to deal with republicans.

Happy Bunny Day

In my capacity as Founder, Chief Elder, and Spokesperson for the Church of Holiday Movie Personages, it is my duty and pleasure to wish everyone a Happy Bunny Day! CHMP (pronounced chump) worships exclusively The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Santa's elves are included in the pantheon in a role similar to angels, but anyone attempting to add Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer to make a trinity is, of course, a dangerous heretic who will be excommunicated (following a lengthy ritual purification).

We of CHMP believe that if we live good lives and follow the gold and silver rules, when we die we get to go either to Bunnyland, to help in the production of The Bunny's goodies, or The North Pole, to help Santa. (How did you think they got all that stuff made and organized?) In both places, you are allowed to snitch and eat as much as you want, and you never get fat!

We also recognize The Grinch in the role filled by the devil. But, happily, he gets converted from The Dark Side to The Light Side every year! We are working to adapt this process to republicans ...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Family History

I pulled some off-topic expansion from the last post on abortion: on
the whining WASPs still want those rights applied only to "real Americans" -- i.e., whining WASPs
patriarchal societies wanting to keep women in their place to bolster the fragile egos of a male mindset that deep down knows that it is losing its place in the world
Leonard Pitts, Jr. touched on this topic in his column today with regard to teabaggers (disagreeing with Keith Olbermann that it's all about race):
This is race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, "culture," and the fact that those who have always been on the right side, the "power-wielding" side, of one or more of those equations, now face the realization that that their days of dominance are numbered.
This story goes back through all of human history, and even though we left much of european feudalism behind us when we came to America, it still stays with us. It is pecking order, it is love of hierarchy, it is found in everything with a backbone.

I'm reminded of Martin Scorsese's movie "The Gangs of New York". Set in the 1860's this has the whining WASP "natives" opposing the (socialist, anarchist, catholic) Irish immigrants.

So why am I not a whining WASP? Because I grew up being told how my maternal great-grandmother had a cross burned in the front yard of her farmhouse outside Lagrange, KY by the Ku Klux Klan, I would guess in the 1920's. Why? Because they were Catholics and second generation German immigrants. And who were the klansmen doing the burning? That generation's crop of whining WASPs, who in this generation are teabaggers.

During the civil rights movement of the 60's, I was told in no uncertain terms by my mother which side we were on -- we were on the side that didn't burn crosses.

So when I see a sign at a tea party saying "We want our country back", I know that I'm one of the people that the whining WASPs want the country back from. And you know what? A lot of the teabaggers probably are too, but they've made enough money to become Republicans and think that they're WASPs. I've made enough money to become a Republican, but, you know what? Fuck that.

We can build a world where no one is hungry or homeless, but the ultra-rich aren't sure that they would still be rich enough if that happened, and the whining WASPs aren't sure who they would then get to look down on.

We have to put the conservative, patriarchal, backward-looking mindset of the teabaggers ("dumbass dupes descend on DC") behind us and get on to solving the world's real problems -- chief of which is, how do we contain human population growth and build an economy not based on growth?

Still, you gotta love the teabaggers opposing health care reform with "Keep your government hands off of my Medicare". I'm sure they are showing their opposition to "socialism" in the US by tearing up their social security checks and refusing to use Medicare --- yeah, right.

Sin #2: Interfering in Women's Reproductive Rights

So we're driving to Florida a couple of weeks ago. We saw several anti-abortion billboards, with two major messages:
Every day another 3600 children die.
We'll get to the "children" later, but first let's do some math. 3600 times 365 equals 1,314,000. So that's 1.3 million women per year whose intelligence, rights and moral decision-making the religious would like to trample. If breeding age women make up 1/6 of the population of the US, that's about 3% per year.

The second message (I wonder who or what is supposed to be saying this):

My heart is beating after 10 days.
This kind of reminds me of the ancient Egyptian views on the importance of the various body parts. They took great care in their embalming to preserve the heart, liver, and stomach. The brain was thought to be worthless; it was pulled out in shreds through the nostrils and discarded. Oops. A beating heart is a muscle. Enough of a brain to hold the beginnings of a thinking (or dreaming) human mind comes much later.

I had a book that listed the cultural universals of the human race -- the things that all of the hundreds of human cultures known to anthropologists have in common, like shrugging, incest taboos, dogs, and a couple of hundred other things. I couldn't find it to check, but I'm pretty sure that abortion was listed there -- it has been practiced by every known human culture. I read somewhere else that the general wisdom was that it was completely unrestricted up until the fetus could be observed externally, normally about half way through the pregnancy, after which restrictions were applied. So, not so dissimilar to the reasonable restrictions we have now: third trimester abortions only in dire circumstances.

Abortion rights opponents claim that abortion is murder -- taking the life of a human being. This usually is supported by arguments that a zygote is given a "soul" as soon as it forms, or that as soon as you have a zygote you have everything required to make a human being. This also leads to opposition to Plan B birth control -- morning after pills. But, Stephen Pinker pointed out in one of his books, the union of the genetic material of sperm and egg actually takes an indeterminate amount of time. So there is no "magic moment" that can be used to identify when the ensoulment happens. And even if the zygote does represent 50% of the nature vs. nurture that goes to make a human being, it is still not a human being, it is a potential human being. A substantial percentage of zygotes fail to implant into the uterine wall or are otherwise spontaneously aborted -- so nature doesn't put any magical significance on them.

The union of a particular sperm with an egg to form a zygote does represent a collapse of astronomical proportions in possibility space (see "Possibility Space and the Chopstick of Doom" blogged a few years ago). But, it's still just a possible human.

At times abortion rights opponents claim that they are representing the rights of the unborn. In general I do think that the more advanced a civilization is, the more it extends rights. When the founding fathers wrote that "all men are created equal", their worldview was such that "men" meant "white males who own land". Over the years, equal rights were granted to blacks and women (kind of) and non-landowners.

But, we can still see in the current culture wars the whining male WASPs trying to keep rights to themselves while denying them to others: immigrants and gays, and in the case of abortion rights, women. I find it funny that conservatives so strongly oppose the ACLU, which has a single stated purpose -- to uphold the bill of rights of the constitution. The problem is, the whining WASPs still want those rights applied only to "real Americans" -- i.e., whining WASPs.

PETA is another group that is trying to extend rights, to other species. I don't particularly agree with PETA, but I would say that they do represent advancement in our culture and civilization.

So is attempting to extend rights to the unborn not a sign of a more advanced and enlightened civilization? If this were really the thinking, they maybe. But, my gut tells me that this is really about denying women control over their own bodies. It is the same conservative mindset that manifests in other parts of the world as women being forced to wear veils; women being not allowed to drive; honor murders; and female genital mutilation. It is patriarchal societies wanting to keep women in their place to bolster the fragile egos of a male mindset that deep down knows that it is losing its place in the world.

The sad part about the cultures that repress women, the worst of which are probably the Islamic ones, is that they are sentencing themselves to being also-ran cultures. You can't compete in the world economy if you keep half of your most intelligent workers (i.e. the women) out of your workforce.

Abortion is probably the worst form of birth control. Women who have talked to me about it have said that's a very hard choice. And there is often regret later -- but who of us does not regret some possibility from earlier in our life that we decided not to pursue? The bottom line is, it is the woman's decision, and no one else's.

My friend David believes in "the 50 year rule". This is that if you disagree for 50 years, then both sides give up trying to convert the other and live and let live. There are some examples -- the Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants seem to have quit murdering each other. Roe v Wade was in 1973. Ugh, that means the 50 year rule doesn't kick in until 2023 -- 13 years from now. Oh well.

One final note. The authors of "Freakonomics" received major static for suggesting that a precipitous drop in crime rates in the early 90's was due to the fact that it occured 18 years -- when young male criminals enter the "work force" -- after Roe v Wade presumably greatly decreased the number of unwanted children born. Food for thought, I guess.

So the final conclusion: we have magical thinking, "souls" to the catholic church, and keeping women in their proper biblical state, i.e., subservient to males, in the religious right, making what should be a total no-brainer -- let the woman decide -- into a divisive issue that keeps us from solving real problems. For example, health care reform is having problems with house democrats because the senate version doesn't restrict abortion funding strongly enough. Abortion rights opponents say, they don't want their money spent on abortions. I didn't want my money spent on killing 100s of 1000s of Iraqi civilians -- but, I guess they're not as cute as babies, so it doesn't matter. Opposition to abortion rights is probably 99% religious-based. So, another reason to actively oppose religion.