Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rest In Peace Cathy

A friend of mine has passed away. She was 21 years old, she was beautiful she was kind and she drove on an icy morning, and for that minor lapse of judgment shes gone. She was not a close friend, we only hung out a few times but she was a good person and shes gone now. We disagreed on many things, she was raised as a fundamentalist christian, she once had written on her myspace, "People I'd like to meet: Darwin, so I can kick his ass for the lies he taught people." Its fair to say that on a great many subjects we disagreed, often with diametrically opposed views. Her views still came from a desire to do good and make people happy, she just had a different vision of happiness. I'm sure the wake will be very different than any I've been to before, I will be uncomfortable with the religiosity, I don't know words to comfort a religious person who's just lost someone so young. But it doesn't matter, if I can get there I'll be there, I don't know why but I need to be. She might not have been a close friend but it's also the first time I've ever lost someone younger than myself, so its hit me surprisingly hard. Its also the first time I've ever been shot down by a dead person, she was very cute. I was already having a bad day but suddenly all my petty shit about my car breaking down, all the stupid drama and the bullshit we put ourselves through, it doesn't matter. Our lives are exceedingly short, and the evidence as I see it leads to the notion that this is the only shot we've got, so lets make the most of it. Be happy, try to make other people happy because before you know it someone will be thinking of you saying, so it goes...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another perspective

I didn't finish reading this but the title was interesting enough to warrant another look. Christians should fear a christian nation. Like I said I haven't read the article but its a legitamate point, at least in the title, I'm curious to see if it makes good points the rest of the time.

This Little Town of Mine

The town I was born and raised in, the town I've lived in for all my life with the only exceptions being college and less than a year in CT, is a piece of shit. Like small towns every where the manufacturing jobs have gone, theres still a few but they're struggling. It was already in decline when it was decimated by a flood in 1972. It's never fully recovered. Instead we've build two prisons and being a guard has replaced some of the old manufacturing jobs, but its a horrible job. We have huge problems for a town on 30 thousand, some blame the prisons, its not uncommon for family members of prisoners to move to town to be near their loved one, unfortunately people who marry people who are doing time, aren't always the best of people. The nearby town of Ithaca, best known for a little school you may have heard of called Cornell had a little slogan "Ithaca is Gorges" which was a nice little play on words and can be seen on shirts and bumper stickers. Then came the parody, "Ithaca is Cold." Our town responded with "Elmira is Gangsta." But theres something about it I love, sure its cold its hard its poor but its real. I like the fact that we have lots of local pizza shops and Pizza Hut closed. But its more than that, and the other day I was reminded of what it is.

I was walking to work, there was ice every where. The sidewalks were unusable and I walked in the street. I walked by a local restaurant and the owner was out front salting the sidewalk. I stopped and talked to him for a moment as I had been in recently and used to go there quite often. He asked if my car had broken down, I said yes but I'm actually walking for exercise. He then offered me a ride (for some reason no one believes a fat guy when he says, no I actually want to walk) which I declined, but walked away a bit happier about this town, here was a guy whose business I frequent, and we chat when we see each other but the reality is I don't know his name, and I don't think he knows mine. That didn't matter though, he thought I was in need so he offered to help, it might be a pretty minor thing to get all excited about but these days being an optimist means you need to latch onto whatever you can.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Obama Mystery

During a party over the weekend I had an interesting and oddly enlightening conversation about politics. Now I've known this person for a while but we've only actually become friends quite recently. I'm not sure if she was just talking about something that interests her or if she knows that I follow politics fairly close. Either way we talked about Hillary and Obama, we laughed at the republicans. She said she doesn't want a super religious president and I mentioned Huckabee's pledge to turn the US into a theocracy. Then she got slightly uncomfortable as she tried to say why she didn't like Obama, clearly she was trying to find a way to not sound offensive but was trying to say that she didn't think she could vote for a Muslim. To which I pointed out Obama isn't Muslim. You could tell she was quite surprised by this, which came as a bit of a shock to me because I consider this person quite intelligent, but apparently misinformed. Someone else piped up at that point also surprised that Obama isn't a Muslim. I was blown away. People really can be duped that easily, how did such fabrications get ingrained in peoples minds. I heard stories a while ago trying to claim that he was Muslim (which shouldn't matter anyway, but it does) I just never imagined that people actually believed it.

On a related note, I just started reading The Audacity of Hope, so far so good.

Last Chance to See

Another book report. I'm realizing that I never say anything bad in my book reports, at least with the non-fiction books. This might be because I'm broke and so I try to make sure the book is good before I buy it, but it also might be because I don't finish the books I don't like and therefore don't review them.

This was another book about animals, but rather than evoking pity for the masses packed on top of each other, this one fills you with a deep sadness for the plight of species which probably will not survive their contact with humans. Its not all bad news as some of these creatures will be saved by the caring of people, but only after the un-caring of people has driven them right to the brink of extinction. But this is too sombre of a review. The book is the work of an unlikely pair. A zoologist who name you won't know provides the knowledge which one of my favorites, Douglas Adams provides the play by play, and the humor. This is obviously a serious issue that those involved are very passionate about, at the same time people tune out very easily when being preached at, which is why Douglas was such a phenomenal choice to be a part of the project. He provides insight and a perspective thats a bit skewed, he keeps you laughing when the only options are to laugh or cry. There is hope within the pages although sadly reality has squashed some of those hopes. The Yangtze River Dolphin known as the Baiji was the center of a monumental conservation effort. In a shockingly short period of time a group of passionate people gathered the funding to create a refuge for the dolphins, unfortunately in the time since this book was written history has shown it to be too little too late. As it is now feared that the Baiji is extinct, or possibly functionally extinct, meaning there may still be a few alive but not enough to survive.

I enjoyed this little book, and it is little. And seeing as I found it online for like 6 bucks I would strongly recommend it for the price, but in all honesty if it was expensive it might no be worth it. Unless of course your just big Douglas Adams fan like me, then you're sure to enjoy.

Diet for a New America

I read this book by John Robbins a week or so ago. It's an older book but I fear most of what it claims has only gotten worse, sort of. What I mean is that this book deals with all the problems that have arisen due to the way we eat. I would not be surprised if the creatures born into the nightmare that is modern factory farms have it even worse off than when this book was written. But there has also been great strides in the other direction.We are slowly becoming aware of these problems and while we might not be solving the problem from the view point of the author, at least concepts like organic are finally part of our national vocabulary. This does not solve problems such as the water usage or land use efficiency. Water use is self explanatory, but it should be pointed out why the land use is critical. The US alone could feed every person on earth with our existing farm land if everyone ate a vegan diet. Its a passionate book and it forces you to take a hard look at what we consume. In the end I wasn't converted to a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I am forced to question myself every time I eat meat, is it worth it? Shit one night while reading this book I ordered some Chinese food, I couldn't bring myself to eat chicken while reading this so I ordered some bean thing, once it got there I realized that bean curd is tofu, and not all that good but it was spicy enough that it was ok. Unfortunately I wish they had done a little test reading with non-vegans, the idea is to try to convert people which is a noble enough goal in this case, unfortunately I got the distinct impression that the only people who had any editorial say were already in agreement. There was one part in particular where they lost huge credibility. It's a section talking about how kind and intelligent animals are. It annoyed me in that it kept making the assumption that most people think of animals as almost robotic automatons incapable of feelings or emotions. It also talked about souls which I'm not into but it was an understandable point. The one story that really stood out was about a naturalist who had quite the conversation with a pig. I could not have tried to use the quote and hold a straight face. Anyone willing to use the story without even a hint of skepticism is clearly a person heavily biased, for me this tainted the entire rest of the book. The worst part is that it could have been dropped without hurting anything. I would still recommend the book but like anything in life take it for what it is and be skeptical, just be prepared to eat a bit less meat.

A weekend

I had quite the weekend, I just wish I could remember a bit more of it. We went to a local event called Wine-On-Ice, so called because its a wine tasting held in a hockey rink, luckily with the ice itself covered. Someone said they thought it would be more fun on the actual ice, but I disagree. It was tough enough walking on that much wine, ice would have meant severe bruising. So we had plenty of wine and then headed off to the bar, I don't recall how we got there, I'm sure someone picked us up. I don't know much of what happened at the bar but a good time was had none-the-less. I bite a friend of mine, messed with the musician, stumbled and danced, eventually getting a lift back to my place. Where I knocked the TV over and broke the door off the TV stand. Good times. Then in the very early morning hours I woke up on the couch and there is a random woman playing the guitar and singing songs, along with my roommate and another of his friends. We laughed and had another bottle of wine before they had to head off to school, luckily they had an easy day because they hadn't slept and were a little drunk.

Saturday I went to a birthday party, it was a good time but I was a bit more reserved. It was during this time that I found out a lot of what had happened the night before. Sunday I slept, and did a bit of reading.

Friday, January 25, 2008


This is hilarious, luckily it is a joke but a pretty damn good one. Conjugal Yup. Oh and before anyone makes any jokes at my expense, i figured out it was a joke by clicking on register here, which I don't recommend doing. Although as desperate as I am I really just wanted to read some more profiles, they're damn funny.

Synthetic Life

Ok there was a little article about scientists creating an entire genome and planting it into an existing cell, yeah its the exact kind of thing that freaks everyone out. Creating super humans all that jazz. But its happening and within the scientific world its not a big deal, they've been advancing towards this for a long time and I don't see them stopping now. A while back PZ mentioned this stuff and said that the public will go nuts and the scientists will say, yup that was the next step, nice job, they look towards what ever the step after that is. Unfortunately my enthusiasm which was lacking before has all been sucked up by something I'll post in a few minutes when I stop laughing.

Optical Scanners! Horay!

Those of us who hail from the Empire State have reason to sing I love New York, and its not because of our senator who's taken 1/3 of her time at work off to go campaign, it because our state just approved optical scanners over the touch screen voting machines. While the optical scanners aren't perfect they're a whole lot better than the touch screens. This fight is not over yet, the makers of the DRE's are appealing and theres still another round before the general election but by then we will already have a whole pile of optical scanners and I doubt they would be stupid enough to switch at that point. So while the war for verified voting is not over, we have won a decisive victory.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fuck Martin Luther King (weekend)

Not because of anything with the great MLK, I just had a shitty weekend. I royally fucked things up with the girl I've been chasing since Thanksgiving. Shes a great person and we got along really well. We were clearly just friends but I wanted to make it clear that I was aiming for something more. I was pretty damn sure that I had made that apparent right from the start. I mean shit she was hanging out with my friend who knew I was curious about her, so with her permission he gave me her number, one minute later I was on the phone with her. Usually that doesn't imply "hey I'm just looking for a friend" but apparently thats all she wanted. I knew that was a possibility so I tried to find out if more than friends was an option. Honestly I was expecting a maybe. I was not expecting to get berated for treating her like an object because I dared to ask how I could win her over. This should be put into context of being very not-sober lying foot to face on a couch semi-awake. I was so off balance from that response (and insobriety) that my attempts to clarify only worked in the sense of digging your way out of a whole. In the morning nothing was made any better, but at least I had stuff to do that day. So I got ready went to the truck and... the starter died. That was just the perfect little extra kick in the nuts I really needed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Religious Freedom Day '08!

Yippie today we here in the United States get to have religious freedom, all fucking day! woo hoo! Wait a minute, isn't that in the Constitution maybe Bill of Rights, Amendment One? Isn't everyday Religious Freedom Day? Oh well, today apparently we're supposed to wear our religion on our sleeve, kinda makes me want to go sacrifice a lamb...
Now this is that which thou shalt offer upon the altar; two lambs of the first year day by day continually.
The one lamb thou shalt offer in the morning; and the other lamb thou shalt offer at even:
- Exodus 29: 38-39.
except I'm no fan of killing animals so could we do human sacrifice instead? Preferably Huckabee.

I really don't think I could pull a knife on this guy. His name is Danny, he's a lamb. He's never threatened my freedom, he did head butt my friend, but thats just his way of sayin hi.

Speaking of insane have you heard that Huck's finally being honest that he wants the US to be a theocracy?
“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And thats what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”
Happy Religious Freedom Day we might not have many more left. And and to grudgingly defend Bush, he might have declared today religious freedom day, which he did while standing in Saudi Arabia, as a lame pimp slap to a country which does not believe in seperation of religion and state. So to the Huckster, if you want to live in a theocracy, go live in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kick Ass Media

Oh wait that should be kicking the ass of the media. Fighting with photographers may be temping, but it usually turns out badly, especially because people with cameras usually have evidence. So who was it? Did Brittany finally snap? Did some drunken rock star punch out the paparazzi? Nah, a State Rep kicked a photographer who came to snap some shots of the new Rep being sworn in, and he had the audacity to even take a picture during prayer! oh no. I think I would be a little concerned over this guys judgment when his first acts in the House are to pray then kick someone, guess thats why I'm not a Republican. He has also demanded that the photographer who was kicked apologize.

I'm sure this will invoke a rational response

Wait the Koran might not have been handed from Allah to Mohamed in its perfect form? It might instead have a history to it like every other book in the world? I'm sure those who follow Islam will be happy to debate this point with those doing the research in a thoughtful an consice way in order to more fully understand their own religious history. Right?

Jimmy Carter in '08

I love The Onion.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cosmos: Carl Sagan

Another book report. Yeah I've been reading a lot lately. I still don't have cable and my original Xbox is getting a big long in the tooth, so fuck it I've been reading. The latest book in case you didn't read the title is Cosmos by Carl Sagan. This is another great book but I would recommend it mostly for either younger people or people just beginning to become interested in science. Plus theres plenty of pretty pictures, I haven't bought a picture book in a while.

There two things that really stood out for me, one is the historical perspective, the stories of Thales and Hypatia are remarkable. Plus I like the names, if I ever have kids (or pets) I'll fight for those names. Hypatias story ends remarkably metaphorically when she is murdered by a mob of christians, possibly including Cyril who was later made a saint, thus ending the Hellenistic period. The things that people figured out with only the most basic of observation equipment boggles my mind.

As interesting as the historical information is theres something else that really makes this book amazing, and that is Sagan's unfettered optimism, you get the sense that not only does he love the science but even more so he loves sharing what he's learned. His hopes of interstellar travel, his joy in the tedious search for intelligent life, his fascination with everything, it really is addicting. As I read, I couldn't help but be saddened by what he would think of the world just ten years after his passing. As a society we have slipped away from using our cerebral cortex and instead relied on our R Complex. When we talk about Base actions, or seeking the lowest common denominator in society (generally insults anyway) were not that inaccurate in out description. The R Complex is not only physically at the base of the brain but its also the common denominator between millions of years worth of creatures. This is where Rage, Xenophobia and the "fight or flight" instinct come from or another way to say it the R Complex is the reason Bush was re-elected (well that and election fraud). Carl had such hopes that as we began stretching out into space we would look back and realize that the differences we have are petty. We're all made of star stuff, we are all citizens of the cosmos which makes national borders seem pretty silly. this book is inspiring, but I can't help but be saddened by thinking of how close we were to a modern enlightenment and instead we've plunged to the dark ages, and its going to take a lot more than just an election to bring us back out of it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This is More, Because its Later.

This was just going to be an update but what ever heres more amusing comics, from Sinfest.
God Revised
We don't need no misdirection
Dr. Strangebush

Yeah and someday I'll get back to my rants about politics and what not but right now I just don't give a fuck. I hate the primaries, we should all vote at once and our votes should count. As for Hillary and Obama, McCain and Huckabee? I don't give a shit, two states with very few votes have cast their ballots, yippie!

UPDATE from the AM: Holy crap we already had politics in a nutshell from Sinfest, now we have Jesus in a nutshell.


So the last attempts at including comics didn't work so well, at least on my computer, so this time I'll just leave a link to a strip from Sinfest that pretty well sums up politics. And another from the same set. And here's another thats probably insulting to some people but I laughed so fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. More later..

Monday, January 07, 2008

I laughed I cried

but mostly I just laughed, its time fore some more comics!
first a classic from The Boondocks. (I hope its readable)And I found a new webcomic thats pretty damn good, even if god is a recurring character. Sinfest.
And for personal reasons this is my favorite so far.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Shock Doctrine

Book Report time! I haven't read any good new books in a while so I was pretty excited when my sisters BF gave me a book for christmas. Yes I get excited by a book, I'm a dork, and I'm ok with that. So the book is The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism by Naomi Klein. And I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

This summary is going to be crap because whats great about the book is not simply the telling of horrific scenes of injustice but the way in which it is all tied together behind one simple vision. Suddenly minor things like the Iraq war and the aftermath of Katrina will come into a whole new light not because you didn't know about them before but because you soon realize that from the view of those in power both have been smashingly successful. Like I said many of the individual stories starting with the rise of Pinochet in Chile, Russia under Yeltsin, the collapse of the Asian Tigers, Iraq you've probably heard before but this ties them together in a profoundly disturbing way. And to no surprise its about money, lots and lots and lots of money. The central theme is Milton Friedman's view that unregulated free markets are the answer to all of our problems, unfortunately reality hasn't been terribly kind to Friedman's vision, or more accurately his vision hasn't been very kind to reality. He may have won a Nobel Prize but it sure as fuck wasn't the Peace prize, plus he won that honor before being able to try it much in the real world.

A point that I find very striking in the book is when it talks of the horrible rein of the communist dictators and how the atrocities committed have stained every idea connected with them. Yet when dictators like Augusto Pinochet commit atrocities in the name of absolute capitalism there is no backlash against capitalism what-so-ever. To be fair the atrocities of the communist regimes have death tolls similar to the holocaust and the atrocities of capitalism pale in comparison, sort of. The difference is that the communist atrocities were black and white, here is a million corpses that were directly killed by their own leaders its easy to connect those dots, just follow the path of the bullet. The atrocities of capitalism are slightly more detached and have therefore been able to shrug off most attacks. Stalin sent people to Siberia to die, Friedman simply plundered the wealth of nations until people died. The fact the millions were fired from their jobs while simultaneously stripping away public safety nets were simply policy issues to ensure a maximum of economic freedom for the market, if it happened to send preventable deaths soaring that was not their fault, Milton didn't kill them, he simply ensured that their survival would be nearly impossible. The fact that his vision knowingly creates an "excess population" is generally ignored.
One thing that worried me was as I started running low on pages and things simply kept getting worse and worse, is this book really going to finish by saying that we have no hope to correct such injustices? But at the last minute she turns the corner and points to the third way, democratic socialism. The best example of this is of course the democratically elected "dictators" of south america. She points out that this is where the shock doctrine was first tried so it is not surprising that they are the first to recover. Plus some of the south american countries had been working on a similar model with great success just prior to their involuntary capitalist experiment.

I know I cannot really do this book justice in a quick review but I need to spell out a little bit more. There is something centrally anti-democratic about capitalism. Can democratic capitalism even exist without force? Maybe at the time our constitution was drafted there were few enough large corporations that the idea of CEO taking over the government had not occurred to them, which makes sense because corporations were far more limited in their power prior to the civil war and the 14th amendment. Not all of what I'm saying is in the book, but the book got me thinking about this stuff thats bounces around in my head so in that sense it's about the book. The idea of a democracy is power of by and for the people. I think everyone agrees that the economy is a pretty central part of power, so by that rational shouldn't the economy be controlled of by and for the people, all the people. Not just the few at the pinnacle of the food chain. So what would an economy of by and for the people be? Well it would be socialist, sorta. People need the freedom to start their own businesses thats part of freedom. But as the courts have said, your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins. You have economic rights, until they step on the economic rights of the community at large. Plus it just seems common sense to me that natural resources should be for the good of society. How can anyone person claim to own oil thats under the land of a thousand people? That is called theft. It seems only right that non-renewable recourses should be controlled by an institution accountable to the people, and at least in theory that institution would be the government. Now we just need to work on the accountability... But I've already mentioned my thoughts on how we take our government back.

This is a great book and I highly recomend it anyone who has been wondering what the fuck bush has been thinking all these years. It turns out he's not as stupid as some like to think, but he and the whole neo-con movement, are even far more evil than previously realized.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fuck Iowa, heres to old Beer

yeah yeah opening play of the election process, pre-season is over blah blah how does Iowa become the epicenter of politics? because I'm forced to have an opinion on the matter I think Obama is going to take Iowa mostly due to being the preferred second candidate for many of the "Non-viable" contestants, although Edwards is looking pretty good in that realm to. As for Hilary, she's too divisive even within her own party. Shes either the only one you'll vote for or not at all. Of course in the general election I'd still take her over any of the Repubs. But in the end fuck Iowa. What makes them so influential, er its timing that makes them influnetial, what makes them deserving of their influence? Why not have every state do its primary at once? Half the field will be out of the game by the time I get to vote, and my state has over 4 times as many electoral votes as Iowa (31-7). And doesn't it seem odd that we give such undue influence to a state that bears little in common with the rest of the country? The USA is not 92% white. But you know what I don't care fuck the whole system, fuck em all.

On that note, wanna sample the oldest beer in the world? Sorta. Some guy figured out the ingredients in the oldest known alcoholic beverage by analyzing some nine thousand year old Chinese pottery. So admittedly its little more than an educated guess at what it might have been like, with the luxury of modern sterilization methods.
It's a pretty cool article and its way better than listening to the fucking talking heads drone on for the next ten hours about what they think will happen in bum-fuck USA.