12.23.2007

merry christmas to all

It's not a front in the culture wars.
It's not a political statement.
It's not a time to force your beliefs (or lack thereof) on everyone else.

Lighten up.

Relax.

Be around the ones you love.

And have fun.

12.17.2007

brevity

It's something I value and strive for. So rather than recapitulate recent events in the horse race, I'll simply quote this guy.

So Paul has to rake in a cool $5 million in one day to be mentioned in the MSM, and Obama just has to walk into a church. And Huckabee just has to smile. Well fuck.


Indeed.

I'm pretty sure the Huckabubble© will burst, and as much as I'd like to see Obama take Clinton out, Democrat primary voters have a nasty habit of nominating the candidate most likely to have been a hall monitor. (The previous Clinton being the obvious--and most successful--exception.)

You know...even if you aren't inclined to support Ron Paul, you have to admit that it'd be fun to watch all the heads exploding if he actually won.

12.16.2007

podcast bleg

So my lab moved last week.

That's really no big deal, but an unpleasant outcome of this is that I've lost radio reception at my bench. (I'm in an interior space now. Very interior.) I didn't really appreciate how much the constant presence of NPR smoothed over those marathon sessions of benchwork that have become the norm for me lately.

I can stream all kinds of stuff at my desk...but that's in another room, and asking someone whose desk is in the lab to play stuff for me on their computer (and crank it up so I can hear it over the hood and incubators, please) seems a bit of an imposition.

However, I have rigged up a pair of computer speakers that I can plug my iPod into and it works quite nicely. So I am becoming a podcast geek.

Anyway, I've subscribed to all the NPR stuff I like, as well as other fairly obvious stuff (Scientific American, The New Yorker, Ricky Gervais) but I'm interested to know if anybody has come across anything I might not have heard of. I figure for the next few months I've got probably 25-30 hours a week where I am at the bench for very long periods, so I'm up for trying anything to fill the time.

Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.

12.12.2007

tooting my tiny piece of the horn

I'm allowed to post a favorable review, if I can only take 1/150th (less than that, really) of the credit for what's being reviewed, right?

I hope so:

In celebration of that anniversary the Choral Society commissioned American composer Steven Sametz to compose a new work in honor of [the conductor's 20th anniversary with the group]... The poetry speaks of stars and light, birth and rebirth, angels and peace.

The music of Part I of "Thou Whose Birth" begins with a first inversion F-sharp major chord (A on the bottom, C-sharp and F-sharp above) sung by the sopranos and altos. In three measures the chord resolves and is picked up in the second phrase as a G-major triad by the tenors and basses. It is an utterly unexpected and jaw-dropping sound.


It was pretty fun to sing, too.

I'm the last person on earth to be offering advice to parents, but...parents: get your kids involved in music. Really. Just do it. They don't have to become concert pianists to have something they will be able to enjoy for the rest of their life.

And you never know...they may get the opportunity to perform something amazing that no one has ever heard before.

12.07.2007

romney's speech on religious (non)tolerance

Here's the problem with Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

Mormons believe strange things. (In broad strokes) they believe that you lived a pre-mortal life, that your life on earth (what the rest of us call "your life") is just one step in the process of learning the difference between good and evil, that you retain your essential personality (and, importantly, gender) after death, that you will get another body at some point in the future depending on how rightous (i.e., Mormon) you are, with Satan and his immediate associates being banished to some place called the outer darkness, the merely wicked to the "telestial kingdom" which is more or less like hell, (but only for 1000 years), the basically good non-Mormons getting to live in the "terrestrial kingdom" which actually sounds pretty decent, and the good Mormons getting to shag and make spirit babies in the celestial kingdom for all eternity. (Compiled and quickly summarized from here and here.)

I've left a lot out here--mostly because I don't care to get much deeper into it myself--but this pretty much covers the really big theological differences that Mormons have with evangelical Christians. (There's also some stuff about God having a body and Jesus showing up in North America to preach to a tribe of white people, not to mention the whole magic underwear thing, but let's not pile on the Mormons, OK? Seriously. They make good neighbors.)

The thing is...none of this is objectively sillier than what evangelical Christians believe. What makes the Mormon four-tiered afterlife stranger than the Christian two-tiered one? What makes a God with a human-like body stranger than an amorphous spirit who is (according to most modern church doctrines) omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent--and yet, is somehow either bound by his own arcane rules of sin and redemption, or disinclined to bend them for the benefit of his people (whom he loves!)

I could go on, but that's a book, not a blog. And it's been written several times over by better writers than me. The only real difference is that there are a lot more evangelicals than Mormons around. So a 2000-year-old Jewish guy preaching a kindler, gentler version of God, being executed by the government, rising from the dead, and ascending to heaven and by so doing making it no longer necessary for people to slit the throats of livestock and set them on fire to make God happy and get into heaven--that makes perfect sense, BUT...that guy showing up in North America a few years later to preach a gospel of celestial procreation is cultish and weird.

Whatever.

Honestly, I have nothing against Mormons or evangelicals. Really, I don't. I just don't share their beliefs. However, neither do I buy into the politically correct nonsense about "respecting the beliefs of others", because respecting the beliefs of others makes absolutely no sense. Either your beliefs are better than everyone else's, or they aren't. And if they aren't then what's the point, exactly?

I believe my beliefs are better than yours. Deal with it.

I do, however, believe in respecting people, if they are worthy of that respect. And I base that judgment not on what people believe, but what they do. Of course, Mitt Romney and the people to whom he was pandering yesterday clearly would not extend me the same courtesy.

Until it becomes socially acceptable and politically feasible for an atheist/agnostic to be out of the closet, this country can lay little claim to meaningful religious tolerance.

12.05.2007

twins!

Congratulations to Rob, Jana, and Jackson on the arrival of Ella and Jonathan.

12.02.2007

weekend math

A = $4 table wine that's actually good, enjoyed with dinner and purchased from the newly-opened Trader Joe's that doesn't involve a 40-minute drive to the most hateful place in the known universe = awesome

B = Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout, a birthday gift from the neighbors = really awesome

C = Homemade eggnog enjoyed while decorating the Christmas tree = super awesome

A + B + C consumed consecutively on Saturday = a very sluggish Sunday

12.01.2007

XXX

So I turned 30 a couple of weeks back and had been thinking I would have something to say to mark the occasion, some sort of semi-profound pronouncement, a glimmer of the accumulated acumen of my first three decades to reveal upon entering my fourth, a nostalgic reflection on what was and a melancholy meditation on what wasn't, a folksy fulcrum upon which to pivot into unadulterated adulthood.

Or failing that, I could at least string together some cool-sounding words in a marginally clever manner. Because the truth is that I've really got nothing here.

I guess what's different, if anything, is that I know it. Maybe that's the point.

I'll get back to you at 60 and let you know.

11.26.2007

wanted: head coach that can differentiate between "success" and "not failure"

This was the headline I was hoping to read when I got up this morning.

I had to wait until lunchtime, but still, it's pretty good.

Tech is halfway to becoming a southern football school...they've shown that they're willing to fire a winning coach who can't beat a main rival.

The other half...getting, adequately compensating, and most importantly--retaining--a coach that can take the program to the next level will be much, much more difficult. Perhaps even highly unlikely.

But still, mediocrity at $1 million a year should not be tolerated. They did the right thing. I just doubt whether they're going to do any better the next time around.

11.21.2007

black friday beer fest

I mentioned this the other day, but it deserves a post of its own.

Pop the Cap's Black Friday Beer Fest is (duh) this Friday. Go shopping first if you must, though why on earth you would subject yourself to that when you can buy anything and everything online on December 23 (not that that's what I do....honest) is completely beyond me.

11.17.2007

ghandi on ron paul

"First they ignore you..."
Check.

"...then they ridicule you..."
Check.

"...then they fight you..."
Check*.

"...then you win."


All I'm saying is that for an "unserious", "kooky" candidate of the lunatic fringe (who remember: has absolutely no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination!), Ron Paul is attracting an awful lot of invective from the GOP establishment.

But don't take my word for it. Consult the almighty Google:

"Mike Huckabee is crazy": 1 hit

"Tom Tancredo is crazy": 7 hits

"Duncan Hunter is crazy": 0 hits

"Ron Paul is crazy": 740 hits

Naturally, another explanation of these data is that Ron Paul really is crazy. And that's fine, but do keep in mind that Huckabee (probably) thinks the world is 6000 years old** and Tancredo thinks that Mexicans want to bomb our shopping malls. Google stats don't track reality--they track what people are saying. (To be fair, "John McCain is crazy" turns up a staggering 4190 hits...but he is a much higher-profile candidate. Who might, in fact, be crazy.)


*Radley Balko gives Mona Charon's insipid column a much more thorough refutation than it really deserves.

**To be fair, when asked directly Huckabee has stated that he "doesn't know" whether the Biblical account is literally true or not. Maybe it's just my own brand of fundamentalism talking, but saying that the Bible might be literally true is only a scant hair away from saying that it is, in terms of absurdity. Try substituting "Alice in Wonderland" or "Beowulf" for "the Bible" in that train of thought.

durham's night out

[m] made it back to town safely yesterday, and despite teetering on the brink of exhaustion, managed to rally in time for us to attend the 9:45 showing of Durham: a Self Portrait.

We arrived at the Carolina at about 9:20...downtown was as busy as I've ever seen it (Durham Rising excepted), a real treat to see on a such a brisk autumn night. We parked on Foster across from the Y, and only so close because someone (presumably from the sold-out first showing) was leaving just as we pulled up. The sidewalks were crowded with small groups discussing the film. The Hollywood-premier-style spotlights were running in front of the Carolina's restored facade, which was pretty cool.

A healthy crowd was already assembled in the lobby. We saw several neighbors, recognized bartenders from some favorite haunts, and I ran into one of the guys I know from the Choral Society. As we were seated, I was telling [m] the story of how my friend Dave and I went to the Duke/Tech game last weekend, he ran into someone he knew from Tech at the game, and then when we went to dinner later that night sat at a table next to the very same guy (this was not planned). As we reflected on the smallness of Durham, I struck up a conversation with the guy seated on the other side of me, only to find out that he was Sean Wilson of Pop the Cap North Carolina fame, with whom I had corresponded several times over email but never met in person.

(PTCNC, by the way, is throwing a very cool event next Friday that I fully intend to take advantage of.)

The film itself was a treat...I guess I have read, heard, and absorbed various bits of Durham's history over the last year, but having them presented in such a coherent narrative really does drive home what a unique and wonderful place this is. (I had never heard about the secret game of 1944, for example.) If you didn't make it out last night, you should definitely try catch the screening on Sunday.

Afterwards, we strolled over to Bull McCabe's for a pint and a snack. I was greeted by name and a "Guinness, right?" which was just music to my ears.

It's been a year of adjustments, but I've got to say this place has really grown on me. It feels like home now.

Of course, having my wife home helps, too.

11.13.2007

i got new specs



I do hope the wife likes 'em. Because I do.

Considering that they cost less than 1/4 of my last pair (and I got basically every upgrade available...super high index, scratch coated, etc...I am blind as a bat and beat the shit out of everything I own), I consider taking the risk and ordering them online to have been entirely worthwhile. Check out Zenni if you are in the market.

11.12.2007

a recomendation

If you are fortunate enough to be living in one of the cities where it is/will be playing, you should go see War Dance. M and I caught it at Full Frame earlier this year, and it is really, really good. I imagine it will be available on DVD in a few months, but if you can see it on the big screen, it will be worth the effort.

health care

Gino tried to get a conversation started about health care reform a few weeks back right before he went on sabbatical. I tried to comment, then quickly realized I had written far too much for any comments section. So I started working on this and never got around to editing it into something I liked. I still haven't but would like to try and at least get the conversation going again.

So...here are some of my random and disorganized thoughts about it all:

1) Yeah, socialism doesn't generally produce optimum outcomes of the most good for the most people, mainly due to fixing of prices at sub-market levels; and in a perfect world, an unfettered market ought to be much better at this. However, we have neither a perfect world nor an unfettered market in health care in this country, and by any reasonable metric (i.e., health outcomes) it is difficult for me to conclude that our system is objectively better than any of the well-run socialist systems in the world (esp., France, and yes, Canada)--particularly in terms of delivering the most good to the most people.

2) The biggest economic losers in the nationalization of US health care would be the managed care companies, who have increased the cost of care with excessive layers of administration and management. It's hard for me to get upset about middle managers losing their jobs. Doctors will still get paid plenty--no one is seriously talking about forcing them to work for peanuts at gunpoint. Even in a nationalized system, there is still a market in labor...and if doctors don't get paid enough, there simply won't be enough doctors.

3. I know it sounds like I'm advocating for socialized medicine here--I'm not really, but I do think it is worth pointing out that our current system is not vastly superior to it, and in truth, I think a nationalized/socialized/single-payer /whatever you want to call it system is probably preferable to any of the cumbersome half-measures we are likely to see in the next few years. (I'm mostly thinking of Ms. Clinton's byzantine plan here, but the same could probably be said about any of the major candidates plans.)

4) I think probably the best plan that could actually work in the US would need to include: a) an uncoupling of insurance from employment; b) meaningful deregulation of health insurance, enabling a greater diversity of coverage and the ability of individuals to negotiate a level of coverage that makes sense for them and that they can actually afford (think more like auto insurance); c) a safety net of some sort.

I realize that (c) might cost me my libertarian decoder ring, but there is simply no reason why anyone in the richest society in the history of the species should have to forgo basic and/or lifesaving medical care. I just don't see this as libertarian vs. socialist issue (anymore); it's a humanitarian issue.

5) A couple of less well-thought-out bits:

--I'm not ready to tell drug companies how they can and cannot market their products, but the proportion of pharmaceutical revenues spent on marketing is simply ridiculous. (It's been a while since I've looked into this, but when I was applying for a job at a certain biotech firm one of their big selling points was that they spent nearly 20% of their revenue on R&D, and this more than almost anyone else. This isn't a startup either...we're talking about a $10 billion a year company here. You do the math.) Figuring out a way to incentivize drug companies to invest more in R&D would be very worthwhile. I have no idea how to do this. Tax breaks? Better patent protections? I'm still chewing on this...

--More research into the marginal benefits (more precisely, into the marginal non-benefits) of newer, more technology-driven diagnostics and therapeutics needs to performed and disseminated. This is a prime example of research that simply will not get done in the private sector, because companies thrive on the new (and patentable.) If test A that's been around since 1955 is only 10% less accurate than test B that's brand new and sexy, is it really worth paying 10 times more for test B? If aspirin works almost as well as third generation COX-2 inhibitor, maybe you should just take aspirin. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence like this out there, but solid, population-level studies need to be performed and common-sense practices based on their results need to be implemented.

Is this sexy research that everybody at NIH is chomping at the bit to do? Hell no. But is it a damn worthwhile investment that will "enhance the Nation's economic well-being and ensure a continued high return on the public investment in research"? Hell yes.

11.11.2007

butternut squash risotto

It is cold.

I have a freezer full of chicken stock.

It is time for risotto.

People geek out about and/or are intimidated by risotto. I do not know why. If you can stir, you can make risotto.

This was inspired by a dish I had at The Federal last fall. As always, all measurements are approximate, and this goes a lot better while imbibing the beverage of your choice (though I really do recommend a tall, cold beer for this, because you will be standing over the stove more or less continuously for about 40 minutes.)

1 butternut squash
1 med-large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio
6 cups chicken stock (bring to a simmer and keep hot)
1 cup white wine
5 Tbs parmesean and/or romano (I used about half and half...the sharpness of the romano balances the sweetness of the squash rather nicely)
2 Tbs butter
4 oz baby spinach
salt, pepper, cayenne, sage, saffron, and nutmeg (to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Peel, seed, and cube the squash into ~1/2-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil to coat, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast until they start to caramelize (start checking after 20 minutes...you'll probably smell it when they are done.) Set aside or just keep warm in the oven.
3. In the meantime, saute the onion, garlic, bacon, with some olive oil in a large pan until the onions are translucent and the bacon is just starting to crisp. Add the rice, and continue cooking for another minute.
4. Add the liquid (wine first, then the stock) about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring more or less constantly as the liquid is absorbed. You're going for a creamy consistency and just on the soft side of al dente. (You may not need all of the stock). This will take 15-20 minutes.
5. Reduce heat; add the squash, cheese, butter, and spinach. Cook until the melty things melt and the spinach just wilts. Season to taste.

11.11.11.11

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

--Wilfred Owen


I am fortunate to have recently joined a local choral group that will be performing Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, which incorporates several settings of Owen's poetry. One of our members has been reading and discussing the poems in our rehearsals, which has really been a treat (think the best part of the best English class you ever took, distilled into tasty 5-minute bits. Awesome.)

Anyway, I had never heard this poem until all of this. It simply haunts me. And it seems appropriate for today.

Owen fought (and was killed) in WWI. They say his poetry changed the way people thought about war. This may be true, but...I can't help but think not enough...

11.08.2007

best. inbound. link. ever.

Sadly, I am not talking about the embarrassingly kind shout-out that RW gave me today. (Welcome, RW readers! I promise this place isn't all politics, all the time.)

No, I am talking about visitor 11,553, who came here after googling "chunky cervial (sic) mucous". (As it happens, I am hit #3 on that search...#8 if you spell it right.)

Whoever you are, I am sorry that you probably didn't find the information that you were looking for. I hope you come back anyway. And you should probably see a doctor.

my script

As the screen writers are out on strike, this would seem an opportune time to work on my script.

Actually, it was going to be a novel, and I really did do some work on it (about 3000 words) but I realized that the only parts that were any good were the dialog. Narrative isn't really my strong suit, but when I get on a roll I can churn out some killer dialog. Also, a script is only about 120 pages. This is what they call in "the biz" a "no-brainer".

The original idea I had was the story of a young academic who led a dual life as a secret agent/assassin. Basically, I wanted to juxtapose a brutal world of treachery, lies, and betrayal with that of espionage.

At one point I thought it might be fun to have the hero's two worlds collide: his mission becomes someone he knows through his "day job", who he eventually ends up killing. And from that, we actually find out that he has never been a secret agent, but that this was just an elaborate fantasy he constructed for himself to deal with the crushing inanity of academic research, and that his secret agent persona has actually taken over and caused him to kill lots of innocent people.

But then I realized that this was basically "Alias" meets "A Beautiful Mind" meets "Fight Club".

So here I am with a premise and some random bits of dialog, but no story that isn't hopelessly derivative. I think the fantasy/delusion angle is a no-go...but I do think that the black comic potential here is still pretty rich. I just need somewhere for it to go...

You know, maybe writers should get paid more...

11.07.2007

sport the war/war support

You know, the one Good Thing I could see (realistically) emerging from the 2008 presidential election was the possibility of the ideological center of the Republican party moving away from the religious right (which is to say, not necessarily towards anything particularly good, just not THAT). Specifically, that the GOP would nominate Rudy Giuliani and the Dobsonites would be seriously pissed off about it and openly marginalized to boot.

Then Pat Robertson has to go and spoil my fun. Say what you will about the Theocons, they know enough realpolitik to stay relevant, even in a year when there really is no reason for them to be.

For all the evil done to the republic in the last seven years by GWB and company, I cannot bring myself to get on board with Team Blue. I'm not a Democrat, I never have been, and I don't think that I ever will be. I can recall only two times in my voting life that I have actually voted for a Democrat in a general election...once for Janet Napolitano when she was up for re-election in AZ (she's done a hell of a job there--and me voting for an incumbent is nearly as rare as me voting for a Democrat), and I held my nose and voted for Kerry in 2004, convincing myself that it was a close race in AZ (it wasn't) and that I was voting to fire GWB.

Usually I have voted LP or abstained. But I have cast a few ballots for various Republicans over the years (more than Democrats, anyway) and in a few cases been fairly happy to do so.

But what really bothers me here is the nagging problem I have with today's GOP--and the embrace of the thrice-married, abortion-tolerant and gay-roommate-having Giuliani by Pat Freaking Robertson illustrates it better than any other single event could. The only issue holding together the coalition of Neocons, Theocons, and Paleocons (are there any Paleocons left in the GOP?) is a blind, fevered, devotion to the war.

That, and opposition to Hillary Clinton being president of the United States. Which is especially odd, since she is easily the most hawkish Democrat in the field.

How the hell did we get here? Did 19 boxcutter-wielding sociopaths really scare us so badly that we are only capable of electing leaders that will perpetuate a permanent state of war?

(Title source below. Play it with the volume up...way up.)

11.05.2007

remember, remember the fifth of november...

I've been really busy today...have any of the major news outlets bothered to report that Ron Paul has raised approximately $4.8 million in the last 24 hours?

All those bots that keep jamming discussion boards and post-debate polls must be loaded...

11.04.2007

pakistan

Query 1: Generally speaking, is it better to have a Muslim country run by a liberal-minded military dictator, or by a democratically elected government that might more accurately reflect the Islamicist values of (a significant portion, if not the majority of) the populace?

Query 2: Does your answer change when the country is armed with nuclear weapons?

The history of US foreign policy suggests that public expressions of concern notwithstanding, we will continue to support Musharraf regardless of how many political prisoners he rounds up. (And I'm not necessarily saying that we shouldn't...per my own answers to the questions above.)

But can we at least start being honest about this whole "spreading democracy" nonsense?

Of course we can't. And now we can add Pakistan to the list of countries in the Muslim world with a population oppressed by a regime propped up by the United States in the name of our short-term strategic interests.

Some pissed-off Saudis attacked us with box cutters. I don't even want to think about what some pissed-off Pakistanis might decide to bring over.

11.02.2007

quotable

Brian Doherty:

Bush comes out with a blood-curdling threat to Congress: if they don't confirm Michael Mukasey for attorney general, why then the U.S. will just have to go to bed without any attorney general at all for the remainder of his term. Can justice survive? Will chaos reign? Why don't we find out?


Word.

The biggest problem with Mukasey, of course, is that George Bush wants him to be AG. Given the prez's track record with the rule of law in general and with appointments to this office in particular, this is more than enough reason to oppose Mukasey's confirmation.

10.31.2007

justice

Let me make this absolutely clear:

I abhor violence. Physical confrontation is the tool of the weak-minded and the short-sighted. To intentionally harm another human being is the most despicable thing you can do. In fact, it is pretty much the one thing that I would consider to be 100%, absolutely, and objectively wrong.

But.

That doesn't mean violence is never justified...or at least excusable.

Beyond the obvious cases of self-defense and defense of the defenseless, I am fairly certain that seeing these bottom-dwellers at the funeral of someone I loved would inspire me--police protection notwithstanding--to do everything in my power to cause them physical pain. I think that would be worth spending a night in jail over.

This is probably not as immediately satisfying, but as justice goes, it's pretty good.

These are the kind of people that make me genuinely regret that I don't believe in Hell.

10.30.2007

why I am a libertarian

The headline says it all.

Working for an arm of the leviathan has only served to reinforce my convictions.

(via)

10.29.2007

how could hell be any worse?

Wow...the opening minutes of the Daily Show tonight were just brilliant. To summarize: a good chunk of SoCal catches on fire, CNN blames global warming, and Fox blames Al Qaida.

Which channel blames the fact that a densely populated arid grassland/desert gets a BIG FUCKING WIND DURING THE DRIEST PART OF THE YEAR??? That's the one I want to watch. Until I figure out who that is, Comedy Central will have to do.

Of course, FEMA's press conferences these days are basically rendering the fake news redundant.

(And yeah, I know I'm playing fast and loose with my geography in the title reference, but no one writes songs about the destruction of San Diego. Songs about destroying LA practically constitute a genre.)

i'm feeling better

I should post about my groin more often...I get great comments when I do.

Thursday, I did 30 min on a stationary bike (no problems, except in the dressing room putting my shorts on which hurt like hell) and by the end of it felt loose enough to try a little light jogging. I managed 0.25 mile before it was clear I wasn't ready for that yet.

Friday was rest, except for walking.

Saturday I did a 3-mile dogwalk in the morning, and felt good so I hit the gym, did some weights, and then figured I'd give the treadmill another whirl. Started very slow, felt good, and gradually ramped up my speed. Was a little tight through the first 15 minutes, then felt fine. Ended up finishing 5 miles in 43 minutes (typically this takes me 38-40). So that's pretty good.

No pain since.

I should mention I was taking ibuprofen at 3x 800mg/d the whole time, and am now tapering that off.

Still don't know what the hell this was/is, but the intensity of the pain and the rapidity of (apparent) recovery don't really make much sense to me. But I'm not complaining.

10.25.2007

since i'm walking funny anyway

I may just have to go get in on this.

At the very least, I'll go snap a picture or two.

10.24.2007

sports medicine bleg (or, a post about my groin)

Yeah, sorry.

Since I count among my readership a good number (and variety) of amateur athletes (how many ACL surgeries among the old ultimate team is it now?) and at least one bona fide MD, I'm just going to throw this one out there.

Is anyone aware of an injury/condition that manifests like a classic groin pull/strain, except:

1) I cannot pinpoint a moment of acute injury
2) During normal, non-strenuous activity, there is no pain (except for a period of time after an acute incident, see (4) below)
3) There is no external sign of inflammation (also no visible or palpable herniation as far as I can tell, standing, lying down, coughing, etc.)
4) Lifting and twisting of the leg on the affected side (think putting on pants while standing), OR, any sudden lunging type movement (like when your dog decides to suddenly cut across your line on a short leash and you trip over him) results in shooting, blinding pain that makes you contemplate passing out and/or throwing up (and also makes walking suddenly very uncomfortable).

And please don't say sports hernia, OK? Really.

As far as my typical level of activity, I run 10-20 miles a week (typically 3-6 miles at a time, pace from 9-7:30/mile), do some high-intensity/low rep weight training 1-2 times a week, and walk with the dog (1-3 miles) daily. Some yoga once a week or so, when I have time, which I haven't in a couple of months. I haven't really done any sports that involve cutting or sprinting in years.

today my favorite country is

Ecuador.

10.23.2007

more writing, less pipetting

The best part of my job is the part that I can do at home, in shorts, dog at feet and beer on the desk.

Now, if only I could get to doing that part during the day instead of at night...

10.22.2007

monday morning

This morning I had a dream in which I was asked to fill in for the head coach of the high school football team of the my old high school's cross-town rival. I spent a disconcertingly long period of time trying to figure out what to wear on the sideline (because though I was willing to coach the team, I was NOT wearing their colors) eventually deciding on a sort of updated Tom Landry look (similar hat, but just a sports coat sans tie rather than a suit). I remember being greeted by the opposing team in a narrow, sweaty corridor as we arrived (by train, like it was 1925 or something) in a strange small town for the game. Passing into the town square, I was confronted with a mural depicting the time in the town's history when Abraham Lincoln had briefly served as their mayor...from 2002 to 2004. Someone explained to me that it was a little-known fact that Mr. Lincoln was in fact our oldest living former president, and that he was the only president to have served as a mayor after the presidency. Now, they say most people can't do math or read in their dreams, but I do distinctly remember trying to calculate that that this would mean that Abraham Lincoln was at least 170 years old (in actuality, he would be 198) and thought that this was fairly amazing.

It wasn't until I woke up that I remembered that Lincoln had been assassinated in 1865.

Somehow, I think that work is going to seem less interesting today by comparison.

10.17.2007

core dump

Everyone should be real nice to Google. I don't mean the company...I mean the search engine. When it becomes self-aware, it is going to know an awful lot about us. Personally, I want to be on its good side.

I need new glasses. I'm probably going to get either these or these (either one in black, natch). I also think these are cool, but M hates them. I like the idea of these, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how they might look on me.

Rob posts even more sporadically than I do, but I still check his page almost daily, because I am very envious of his story-telling abilities. Though in this case, I am not particularly envious of the story.

Probably the coolest performance space in Durham is closing before it even got off the ground. For this we can thank the City, who halted performances last spring after determining that they didn't have enough bathroom stalls. Never mind that 305 South could have very well anchored an economic revitalization of one of the most blighted commercial areas of central Durham (the one show I managed to see at 305 easily had several hundred in attendance). I am continually amazed at the ability of local government to cut off its nose to spite its face.

10.15.2007

which way is she spinning?



The answer is (allegedly) an indicator of hemispheric dominance. Don't read the rest until you have figured out which way she is spinning.








Don't worry...I'll wait.











Yeah I haven't figured out how to code a post with breaks. So sue me.












If she is spinning clockwise, your right hemisphere is more dominant; if she is spinning counter-clockwise, your left hemisphere is more dominant. If there isn't a (rather impressive) silhouette of a woman twirling around at the top the post, you need to update your web browser.

More on what this means here.

I think the left-brain/right-brain thing is a lot more complicated than popularly presented, but I do find it interesting to see how different people see this, and how it correlates (or not) with what they do for a living.

More interesting is whether you can make yourself see it both ways. As of posting, I cannot, and I find this infuriating.

Anyway, I see her spinning clockwise, which means I am right-hemisphere dominant and probably in the wrong career. But I already knew that.

What about you?

10.13.2007

"kill a lot of people, then stop"

I really did want to write a bit more about Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but then I read this piece by Jesse Walker, which has rendered anything I could have come up with utterly pointless and redundant. Perhaps most importantly, he points out the at the Prize has never really been about peace:

In 1919 it gave the prize to League founder Woodrow Wilson, whose previous contribution to peace was to plunge the United States into the most pointless major war in its history.


Read the whole thing.

10.12.2007

foresight

On a day when an American politician is being lauded the world over for his foresight, I think it is only appropriate to point out this quote by another American politician--one who is actually running for president this year--that I found in an article on the same:

"Our current foreign policy does nothing more than stir the flames of hatred on both sides... Hatred towards America will continue to escalate, and the United States security will continue to diminish due to the threat of terrorist attacks... The greatest threat to our national security is our own bad policy. [emphasis added]"


That was Ron Paul, speaking on the floor of Congress.

In 2000.

(Dr. Paul's statement in full an be found in the Congressional Record here.)

10.01.2007

when i am king the labels will be first against the wall

Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows, will be available for download here on October 10.

The price will be whatever you wish to pay.

9.29.2007

about a boob

Check this out:

A Harvard student must be given extra break time during a medical licensing exam to pump breast milk, a Massachusetts appeals court judge ruled yesterday.

The student, Sophie C. Currier, 33, of Brookline, Mass., had sued the National Board of Medical Examiners after it denied her request for more than the standard 45 minutes of allotted breaks during the nine-hour exam, which she will take over two days. [emphasis added]

She said she risked medical complications if she did not nurse her 4-month-old daughter, Lea, or pump breast milk every two or three hours.


In a word...WTF???

First of all, I want to express vocalize my sincerest appreciation to all of my female colleagues who, in the process of balancing their working lives with their maternal obligations, have had the common decency to not impose this disgusting spectacle on the their coworkers, and particularly, on me. (Because seriously, this is disgusting. I'm sure that for you, breastfeeding is a life-affirming process of mother-child bonding. To the rest of us, it's you squirting milk out of your tits. Gross.)

OK, all of that aside...Ms. Currier is taking the nine-hour exam over two days (more on that in a minute), which presumably means that there will be roughly two, 4.5 hour sessions. So if she...you know, gets pumped or whatever...immediately before the exam, takes a 22.5 minute break in the middle to do it again, and then again after the exam, that's two periods of 2.25 hours each that she's managed to go without doing her best impression of a Holstein. Did I miss something?

Was a lawsuit really necessary here, is what I'm asking?

It gets better. At the end of the article, we learn that:

Ms. Currier has already received some accommodation from the board for dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She can take the test over two days instead of one, for example.


Thank goodness she isn't going into a profession that requires long hours, sustained attention, rapid decision-making, and clear judgment in the face of high-pressure situations.

A bit of advice, Ms. Currier. People google their physicians these days (at least I do). When I do, I'm not really looking at whether they went to Harvard, or how experienced they are, or whether they've published anything. What I am looking for are obvious red flags like...did they sue the medical board for special accommodations for their licensing exam?

You should really think about the impact of this kind of publicity on your career.

(Though, I suppose you could always just sue.)

9.26.2007

the oslo primary

Hmmm...

Maybe it's just the campaign fatigue talking, but I don't see how Al Gore would be objectively worse than any of the front runners in either party. And he would, quite frankly, be very good for (publicly-funded) science in this country.

9.25.2007

score another one for the dark prophet

I'm so sick of arming the world, then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries, then we go and blow the shit out of them. We're like the bullies of the world, y'know. We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheepherder's feet.
'Pick it up.'
'I don't wanna pick it up, Mister, you'll shoot me.'
'Pick up the gun.'
'Mister, I don't want no trouble. I just came downtown here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about ten rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble, Mister.'
'Pick up the gun.'
(He picks it up. Three shots ring out.)
'You all saw him - he had a gun.'


--Bill Hicks, c. 1992

Metaphorically true then. Literally true now.

Nice.

9.23.2007

the state of the union is "overrated"

Beneath the fold this week comes news that Belgium may soon cease to exist.

“We are two different nations, an artificial state created as a buffer between big powers, and we have nothing in common except a king, chocolate and beer,” said Filip Dewinter, the leader of Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Bloc, the extreme-right, xenophobic Flemish party, in an interview. “It’s ‘bye-bye, Belgium’ time.”


Personally, I think Mr. Dewinter vastly underestimates the ability of chocolate and beer to bring people together.

Anyway, Megan McArdle at Atlantic raises an interesting point:

The problem of disentangling financial assets and currency is one of the major forces mitigating against separatism...Now that the European Union has taken over the currency, as well as many of the trade and customs functions of traditional federal governments, Belgium as a state suddenly looks a lot less necessary. One wonders if the current era of economic integration (assuming it continues) might not bring increasing political balkanization.


For me, this is a compelling argument for a North American economic (not political) union (now would be a good a time as any to make one, since the USD and Loonie are now trading at 1:1.) This would be a much happier continent if we split into several more countries. California is already the world's 6th largest economy, Vermont actually has a (relatively) active secessionist movement, and Texas feels as foreign to me as Canada (which itself has a much more likely chance of balkanizing than the US.)

There would, of course, be the added benefit of no longer having an imperial government in DC (which itself could be returned to the Republic of Maryland and perhaps turned into some sort of super-awesome paintball park) getting us involved in wars on the other side of the world and attempting to impose similar top-down arrangements on other "artificial states" that might be better off broken into a two or three smaller entities. But I digress...

It's hard for me to get excited about being American these days. But I would relish the chance to be a founding citizen of Cascadia or Baja Arizona.

giant douche vs. turd sandwich 2008 preview

Rudy Giuliani was kissing up to the NRA on Friday, trying to gloss over his record on gun control with this little gem:

"You should know I understand that the right to bear arms is just as important a right in that Constitution as the right of free speech..."


Some are are understandably skeptical; however, I actually think this is a pretty accurate statement of his position on the Second Amendment. After all, later in the same freaking speech, he stated that, "We passed a line that we should not allow any American political organization to pass," in reference to MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad last week.

So-called "libertarians" that are drawn towards Giuliani just because he's more sanguine about abortion and gay rights than the typical Republican really need to take a closer look at this guy. If he is the GOP nominee next year, the general election will be a race between an authoritarian from New York...and Rudy Giuliani.

(headline explanation here, if you need it, though if you do you're probably reading the wrong blog anyway..)

9.19.2007

postdoc life

Between November of 2005 and June of 2006 I gave four public talks, two of which were one-hour "job talks" and two were 20-minute conference talks. I could do it in my sleep by the end of it all.

Tomorrow I am giving my first quasi-public talk since June of '06, which suddenly seems like a really long time ago. I'm rusty, and my project is very, very different both conceptually and technically than what I was doing before.

Even though I was working on slides into the wee hours of last night (a pretty rare event for me since graduating) and pretty much every second of today that I wasn't walking down the hall for more coffee and/or to go to the bathroom--I never really got nervous. I just ran through the talk for the benefit of my dog and the dining room wall for the second time, after cutting a few slides out, and still ran 3 minutes over. I'm still not nervous.

Here's why:

2 things have happened every time I've given a talk, going all the way back to my first year of grad school:

1) Everyone tells me I did a good job.
2) I am never satisfied with the job I did.

Now...I have no doubt that plenty of people have found my talks boring, others have found them disorganized and awkward, and even a few may have found them to be simply and laughably naive. I have no doubt about this, because these are my top three reactions to most of the talks I've heard. "Pretty good" comes in fourth, followed by "I really, genuinely enjoyed that" in a--very--distant fifth.

What I'm saying here is that the source of any pre-talk anxiety I might feel is the thought that I'm talking to a room full of people just like me.

So why don't I worry?

What's the point? I know most people will say nothing to me at all about it, a few will give me a compliment, my boss--whose job it is to critique me--will couch any criticism in the most positive light, but more than likely just tell me I did a good job, and I won't be happy with it regardless.

Just once, I would love it if one of my colleagues would come up to me and say something like, "yeah, you had me at the beginning when you were talking about general stuff, but once you got into data I just kind of checked out and thought about what I was going to have for lunch...your slides had a nicely balanced color scheme, though, and it sounded like you didn't say 'um' too much. So I guess you did OK. But I really don't care."

Anyway, check this space tomorrow to see if I am writing about being careful about what you wish for.

9.17.2007

psa/rumor mill

Though there is as of yet no mention of it on their webpage, a flyer I picked up at the Carolina Theatre last week had this Friday, September 21 listed as the return of the always-awesome Retrofantasma Film Festival.

I, for one, will be there regardless of what they show...

UPDATE--There's a new page up. This week is Friday the 13th part IV (the one with Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover) and a Linda Blair piece called "Hell Night".

Good stuff coming up the next few months...I can't wait for Christmas...

9.09.2007

housekeeping

Been sprucing up the blogroll this morning, mostly because the extremely awesome Jaden's Steamy Kitchen was brought to my attention.

9.07.2007

a brush with (in)fam[e](y)

This morning, I was driving through downtown on Mangum street at just the right time to see Mike Nifong doing the perp walk into the Durham County lockup.

I don't have anything to add to that, really, except that I'm amazed at how easy it is to pick someone out of a crowd when they are the focal point.

8.26.2007

grandpa's gold bond makes me feel numb

The streets of D-town are definitely safer now that this menace is behind bars. (I especially like how the police spokesperson says she "assumes" police had information that drug-related activity was taking place in the 93-year-old's house. Because we all know that the cops never raid the wrong house or anything.)

8.22.2007

magical thinking

I recently got a travel award that I have to use in FY 2008 (which starts in a couple of weeks for me) and I'm wondering if I can get away with using it to go to this meeting...

8.15.2007

bull city beer

I have posted a review of the first offering from Durham's own Triangle Brewing Company at Sudspundit.

Sorry.

meeting myself coming/going

Hey folks. Back at the mill for 3 days after a couple of weeks staying with L and K (thanks again guys!) for S and D's wedding (which was lovely). We also got to see T and P for the first time in...well, entirely too long. Oregon was beautiful (as usual) and somewhat beverage-centric (as always) and time seemed to stand still and fly by at the same time.

Now the happy couple is allegedly in New Zealand (though this is exactly where I would tell everyone I was if I just wanted to hole up in my house for a month and not be bothered), the guests are scattered once again to the four winds, and I leave town again on Thursday tomorrow (!) night, because my presence is required for bachelorific festivities in Austin, TX. But first I have to wade through the pile of data I left before I left the last time, write a pithy abstract that I thought was due at the end of the month but I recently found out is due, um, today, get started on a poster and talk (both to be presented next month, one of which I also just found out about), go shopping for 3-oz toiletries so I don't have to check a bag for a three-night trip (during which I probably won't sleep anyway), repair the p-trap in the kitchen sink that disintegrated this morning just as I was about to step out the door, and oh yes plan something for [m]'s birthday which is imminent.

Yeah, so what I am doing here?

(scampers off)

7.29.2007

2 quick ones

--While standing in line at the post office this week, I saw a FedEx guy come in with a delivery. For the post office. It took a while for that one to sink in.

--Queen guitarist Brian May is finishing his PhD in astrophysics, some 35 years after starting. I hope for the sake of other people working on their dissertations right now (I know of a few) that their advisors don't hear about this.

7.21.2007

it ends with harry putting journey on the juke box

M and I drove by a bookstore last night around 7:30 and there was already a line forming for the last Harry Potter book, which went on sale at midnight.

It occurred to me that if I were someone really into the series (I'm not--I can't even stay awake through the movies) that I would be very annoyed with the level of hype. Because if you are really wanting to know how the story ends, and you want to have the pleasure of reading it for yourself, the only thing you could have done is buy the book last night, shut yourself up for all of today, and read it cover-to-cover.

No doubt, this is what the die-hard fans were planning to do anyway, (and indeed, are doing so even as I type this), but I would really hate feeling like I had to rush through the book as quickly as possible, just to avoid having the ending spoiled. Especially since this is it.

7.20.2007

maybe they will find his head (zing!)

The Prez is getting his drain snaked tomorrow. I'm so glad to live in a world where I know this.

In all seriousness, I wish him a speedy recovery from a procedure which, though routine, I am sure is no picnic.

Mostly because the notion of Cheney being in charge for even a few hours frankly scares the shit out of me.

7.18.2007

think happy thoughts

There's a study out this week delving into a possible neural substrate of the placebo effect. Brian's quick and dirty summary for neurobiologists: the greatest placebo (analgesic, in this case) response correlates with the greatest anticipated benefit AND greater dopaminergic activity in the left nucleus accumbens. Which is to say, the more you think it will work, the more it probably will, and the NA probably has something to do with it.

It's worth pointing out that in this study, everyone got the placebo.

The paper is in Neuron, for those with interest and access.

(Via Ron Bailey)

7.11.2007

what balko said

I agree with every word of this, rendering further comment unneccessary.

7.10.2007

blogorrhea

--I have a feeling that food and drug products from China just got a hell of a lot safer. (Yikes!)

--Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona says that "...anything that doesn't fit into the [Bush administration's] political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried" and that he was routinely censored and/or explicitly told what to say while in office. Clearly, Richard Carmona hates America.

--Ron Paul. That is all.

--I sincerely think (and hope) that there is no truth to this, because it strikes me as a supremely uptight move for a pizza chain that is essentially one big drug joke. That said, I do find the Indy cover in question personally offensive. (Not because of the guy in a bra, but because of the condescending subtitle.)

7.09.2007

you can't go home, v. 37

It appears that the Atlanta's once-great Buckhead bar district has finally succumbed to the fatal blow dealt it by Ray Lewis in 2000.

I went "clubbing" in Buckhead exactly twice: on my 21st birthday, and on the night I graduated from college. (I'm not counting the many, many nights I went to the long-gone Atlanta Beer Garden for trivia, frequently winning bar cash and underage for nearly all of it.) So I guess I can't really claim a huge deal of personal nostalgia for what once was, but still--back in the day, Buckhead was a hell of a lot of fun. It was about as close as you could get to Bourbon Street without going to New Orleans--last call wasn't until 4, and you had to be doing something really stupid to get in any trouble with the police.

The next time I'm in town, I'll have to make it a point to drive by the shiny condos rising at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr, and try to remember what it looked like there that fateful Sunday afternoon when Vikings kicker Gary Anderson sent the Falcons to the Superbowl and every bar emptied into the street, pitchers and pints still in hand, and the APD showed up...

...to divert the traffic around us.

6.27.2007

do u like me?

I sent out something called a "resume" earlier today. I kind of stumbled across a job posting that I may by some cosmic coincidence be almost qualified for despite the fact that I have been squireled away in various laboratories for the past eight years working on experiments that maybe a couple of hundred people on earth would really understand--much less care about--and, it isn't a research job!!!

(It is a job where knowing a thing or two about biology would come in handy...)

And I'm already checking my email obsessively to see if anyone cares. I'm giddy and terrified at the prospect of doing SOMETHING ELSE for a living. I had to take a long walk right after I hit "send". Just like that, I'm back in 7th grade, and I just sent Ashley Johnson* a note to (ahem) probe her possible feelings towards me. 4th period English is a complete wash today, is what I'm saying.

Man it is weird to be doing this for the first time in my life at damn near thirty.



*You don't actually think I'm going to use her real name, do you?

6.21.2007

why was i not informed?!?!?



When the Smashing Pumpkins reunited after seven years to plot a U.S. concert series, the alternative rock band made a surprising choice for its first shows: a small club in the mountains of North Carolina.

The Orange Peel, a 942-capacity venue, will host the Grammy Award-winning band when it returns to the United States for a nine-show run that starts Saturday in Asheville.


(rtwt)

The answer to the above question, naturally, is that the first I heard about this was just now...on NPR.

F&%# I am getting old.

this post is not about stem cells

Really. It isn't.

"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us."

--President Bush, upon vetoing legislation yesterday that would loosen restrictions on federal funding for embyonic stem cell research.

A gold star goes to the first person who can convince me that the quote above is not a perfectly sound argument against waging a preemptive war, even one against a Very Bad Man who does Very Bad Things.

6.19.2007

durham rising--you have to be there to experience it (no, really)

Can anyone think of a reason why "recording devices" are among the list of prohibited items for the block party we're having this weekend? And why "disposable cameras" are on the enumerated list of allowed items (implying that non-disposable cameras are not allowed)?

All I can come up with is that there will be some live music being performed, and many concerts do prohibit cameras and recording devices. But--and no disrespect to the hard-working performers scheduled for Durham Rising is intended here--there is no one performing at this thing who wouldn't benefit from a wider distribution of their music and/or likeness, ya know?

So really--whassupwidat???

Bag searches prior to entering the controled perimeter hardly strike me as the way to make the people that have been avoiding downtown Durham all these years (which is to say, pretty much everyone) feel welcome.

6.15.2007

open letter

Dear (name of publisher redacted),

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute a chapter to your book series, (redacted). It is a privilege to write for for such a well-regarded series, and I sincerely hope that the quality of my submission reflects this.

I can appreciate that publishing, and scientific publishing in particular, is an increasingly global enterprise. I believe that this is, on balance, to the betterment of us all. Moreover, I understand that yours is not a business in which profitability is easily attained, nor is it easily maintained, as the ratio of your production costs to sales is, in a word, unenviable, even in the best of times. (No doubt, it is for this reason that you depend on academics, the only people on earth who are willing to slave for months over a 10,000 word, heavily annotated and referenced piece in exchange for nothing more than a lifetime discount of 30% on your products, which typically retail for 300% more than mass-market books of comparable heft.)

However.

Many responsibilities exist in the process of marshalling a written work from the author's hard drive to a bound copy on literally dozens of academic library shelves. Of all these that could be outsourced to a developing country where the typical citizen's command of English is--shall we say, not necessarily on par with most of the Anglosphere--why in the name of Xenu would you choose copy editing?

(Why?)

It would be one thing if I were correcting my own mistakes in the proofs you've sent me...but I am spending all of my time looking for the mistakes that are entirely new.

As it apparently falls to me to serve not only as author, but also as senior copy editor, I must insist I be compensated for these extra duties.

How about 40% off?

Warmest regards,
Dr. B

6.10.2007

why does colin powell hate america?

Just kidding. This is awesome.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said today he favors immediately closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison and moving its detainees to U.S. facilities.

The prison, which now holds about 380 suspected terrorists, has tarnished the world's perception of the United States, Powell said.

"If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I'd close it," he said.

"And I would not let any of those people go," he said. "I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system is all about?"


Nice to see a (nominal) Republican who views this issue from the perspective of the United States Constitution rather than from the script of 24.

even though i am against texan presidents in principle

I was pretty tough on Ron Paul a few weeks back. I remain concerned about a number of his positions, specifically: his relatively hard line on immigration and his bizarre fixation on the federal reserve and the gold standard (I know, I know, but there is much more low-hanging fruit for libertarian reform in this country before we go mucking about with our monetary system, doncha think?)

However...

The fact of the matter is that Dr. Paul is doing remarkably well on the publicity front, far exceeding the expectations that any sane person would have placed on him a few months back. (I know he is still polling near the bottom, but remember it is June of 2007, and support for the alleged GOP front-runners is so fickle that grown men are responding to Fred Thompson as if they were 14-year-old girls and Thompson was Justin Timberlake. Or whoever 14-year-old girls are stupid over these days.)

Word is that Paul's donations are up. Way up. As in possibly on par with McCain's

And it may have something to do with the fact that he is the only person in the GOP race who is articulating a solid opposition to the Iraq war (and arguably, the most consistently anti-war in either party's slate of candidates). When (not if) the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, an anti-war GOP candidate is probably the best bet to beat her (not to mention the best bet for bringing our entanglement in the Middle East to a reasonably quick conclusion.)

Given my recent ambivalence towards voting (and the fact the 2008 NC primary might as well be held in 2010) I've decided that even a nominal monetary contribution would have 1000 times the effect the empty gesture of actually punching a ballot (particularly in my district).

So I gave Dr. Paul some cash today, my first contribution to any candidate for anything, ever.

Donate Today

6.08.2007

qc

(The following is an erruption that my scientifically employed bretheren will understand, and everyone else will probably not understand nor care to. For this, I envy them.)

For the millionth time...If there is any way at all to verify independently the integrity of your reagent...especially if said reagent is, you know, the drug (or in my case, growth factor) that you are supposedly looking at the effect of--you do it every f$&%ing time you crack open a new vial, even if the 25 before were fine, just fine, thank you. And you do it before you run experiments with it...NOT AFTER, DUMBASS!

Got it?

(I need a beer. And the last week of my life back.)

6.07.2007

because there is a chow bouncer. and her name is Brick. and she hates me.

It's not like an official policy or anything, but there are just certain people and topics I really don't ever want mentioned on this blog. Certain recently incarserated hotel heiresses, for example.

But damn, this sure is funny.

belgian brewpub in the bull city?

The mere thought that something like this could happen in Trinity Park makes me so happy I could weep.

[Residents of Trinity Park] ended up hearing an intriguing proposal from local beer-crafter Sean Wilson to transform the Trinity Community Church at the corner of Lamond and Gregson -- on the very border between the neighborhood and the Brightleaf district just a couple of blocks down...

Wilson proposes a seven-barrel brewery for on-premises consumption only (as opposed to a brew plant like Holly Springs' Carolina Brewery, which would require an industrial zoning.) The remainder of the concept, however, is still open to some interpretation. Wilson noted he was considering a restaurant concept around a Belgian or farmhouse theme, both of which would go well with both the church architecture and your favorite beer. Intriguingly, a second possibility would be to de-emphasize the dining and turn it into a brewpub-theater that could show classic or arthouse films or host music performances. Even with the entertainment possibilities, Wilson projects closing at 10pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.


Traffic accessibility issues aside, I think a business of this sort could thrive in that location. It is completely walkable for residents of Trinity Park and West Village (both disproportionately populated with youngish BoBo types who go to brewpubs and such), and easy bike ride along the greenway from Northgate Park (i.e., for me) and Duke Park, similarly close to Old West Durham/Watts/Hillandale (similar to the aforementioned neighborhoods, but slightly more afluent) and two blocks from an area that more outlying residents already drive to for food and drink (Brightleaf Square).

I also hear there's a university of some sort a mile or two away...

(crosses fingers)

6.05.2007

support upcoming artists (esp. those that are married to me)

Head on over to [m]'s place and check out what she will very soon have for sale (a few more pieces at the bottom of this post, and be sure to check back for updates.)

5.30.2007

ugh

Two stats, quoted in seperate posts on Hit and Run today:

"Fully 65% of Americans agree with the idea that, in general, corporations make too much profit..."

and

"...polls by Gallup that document whether Americans believe the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God (31 percent), "the inspired word of God" (47 percent), or "a book of ancient fables, history and 'moral precepts' recorded by man" (17 percent)."

I've occasionally wondered whether, in the absence of a viable libertarian (or at least libertarianish) party in the U.S., whether it would be nearly as useful to gather the populists and fundamentalists under one party umbrella, so that at least we'd have someone to vote against consistently.

Based on these numbers, it seems the problem with that strategy is that such a party would likely win. A lot.

There really is no place in this world for those that believe in neither an omnipotent god nor an omnipotent state, is there?

5.23.2007

13 things when I am old

I will grab RW's open-ended non-tag, and predict 13 things that will be when I am old.

My operational definition of "old" will be the year that I turn 80 (2057), because by then:

1. 80 will be proclaimed "the new 70", 70 have been proclaimed "the new 60" around 2035 or so. This is good, because by now, the average person is in school until they are 35. (I'm not overeducated, you see...just an early adopter.)

2. A Pulitzer will be awarded to a 16-year-old for her MySpace page, which, having been online for 8 entire months, makes it the longest-lived periodical of the past 30 years.

3. Antipsychotics and antidepressants will be compulsory, while 40% of U.S. Customs enforcement resources will be devoted to intercepting clandestine tobacco shipments.

4. Populations will be much more decentralized. The largest city in the U.S. will be a suburb of Phoenix that hasn't even been incorporated yet.

5. English will be the most popular second language taught in American schools, more or less tied with Spanish. (Everyone's first language, naturally, will be Chinese.)

6. The Islamic Reformation will be well underway. The collapse of the oil-based economy (due to the development of other fuels and/or diminution of oil reserves) will have eroded the power base of dictatorial regimes who previously were able to support themselves by pulling money out of the ground. These regimes will be variously replaced by popular Islamist revolutionary types, secularist dictators, and maybe one or two quasi-liberal democracies, the processes of getting there being variously violent and relatively peaceful. The relative economic success of these societies will drive migration and calls for change within the more conservative societies. Fundamentalists will remain, but will be increasingly marginalized.

7. Most people in the developed world will die of accidents, because heart disease, most cancers, and many neurodegenerative diseases will be treatable, curable, or even preventable.

8. The global population will have plateaued around 15 billion as birth rates fell with increasing affluence in Africa and Latin America, just like they did everywhere else throughout human history.

9. Religiousity in the United States will be at more or less the same level as Europe's in 2007, and be similarly heterogeneous among various regions.

10. Though the overall standard of living will be much higher for everyone than it is now, the relative wealth of upper, middle and lower classes will be much, much more disparate than it is today. As a result, the political landscape with regard to economic and tax policy will look essentially the same as it does now.

11. Nuclear weapons will be widespread among the nations of the world, thus detering their use by anyone on anyone else.

12. Mars will have been colonized by Mormons, privately financed.

13. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will finally win another national championship, their 5th in 140 years. I will watch it via satellite from my house in Mexico, where [m] and I will have retired 20 years prior.

my 80's music--g n' r

Did Guns n' Roses do anything exceptional or innovative? No.

Did they change the musical landscape in such a way that it can be divided neatly into "before" and "after" them? Not really.

Did they kick ass?

Yes. Yes they did.

And you know what? I'm glad they only really produced two full-length studio albums (OK, three if you count "Use Your Illusion" as two). I'm thankful they imploded in a few short years. I'm thrilled that they didn't hang around long enough to produce an experimental album, or a midlife crisis album, or to end up on the has-been circuit playing tiny clubs and casinos.

They played unapologetic, balls to the wall rock, and they flamed out in true rock and roll fashion.

Enjoy.

with an opposition party like this, who needs a majority?

If you needed further verification that we live in a one-party system, consider that the Democrats' bold new plan to end the war in Iraq is to give the president more or less exactly what he wants.

5.18.2007

adventures in rennovation

I swear to god just as soon as I finish re-finishing our kitchen cabinets I am going to invent the time machine so I can go back and beat the hell out of whoever invented shelf paper.

Seriously, what is the point? Is it to protect the wood (that, if you glue freaking paper onto it, you will never see again?) It surely isn't easier to clean than a nice, enamel or satin-finish painted (or stained and sealed) surface.

And did it never occur to anyone that there might come a time when blue and white flowers would not be a universally appealing aesthetic motif? The beauty of paint, you see, is that you can always paint over it.

Well, you can for about 60 years (the current age of our house) at which point the paint is about the thickness of a dime, and you really, really need to strip and sand if you ever want anything to close, ever. That's another thing.

No, I haven't been drinking. And by "no I haven't" I mean "yes I have" and by "drinking" I mean "inhaling large amounts of industrial strength paint stripper and lead paint dust. And drinking."

5.16.2007

does ron paul favor torture (or is he just really bad at debating?)

I'm home sick today, alternating between feverish napping and that weird head separated from the rest of the body feeling that Theraflu (the good stuff, with pseudephidrine in it) brings about.

Last night I came home late-ish and got sucked into the Republican debate just as Brit Hume essentially asked the candidates "what would you do as President on an episode of 24?" From the transcript:

"The questions in this round will be premised on a fictional, but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it. Here is the premise: Three shopping centers near major U.S. cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured off the Florida coast and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they are being questioned. U.S. intelligence believes that another larger attack is planned and could come at any time."


I have to admit I was genuinely frightened by the responses.

Hume--"First question to you, Senator McCain. How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantanamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?"

McCain--"If I knew for sure that they had that kind of information, I, as the president of the United States, would take that responsibility. That is a million-to-one scenario. But only I would take that responsibility.

The use of torture -- we could never gain as much we would gain from that torture as we lose in world opinion. We do not torture people..."


Later, after follow-up question, McCain called bullshit on the parsing of "enhanced interrogation techniques", (see below) and pointed out that there was a "sharp division" during the debate over the detainee treatment act between those that had served in the military and those that had not, with those having served being essentially unanimously opposed to torture.

McCain is wrong about a lot of things, but he is on the side of the angels on this one. What was truly disturbing was the chorus of answers from basically everybody else:

Giuliani--"I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. It shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of (Hume interupts: "Water-boarding?") and I would -- and I would -- well, I'd say every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that..."

Romney--"...you said the person's going to be in Guantanamo. I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil...Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo." (He later said he supported "enhanced interrogation techniques".)

Hunter--"Yeah, let me just say this would take a one-minute conversation with the secretary of Defense. (Laughter.) I would call him up or call him in. I would say to SECDEF, in terms of getting information that would save American lives, even if it involves very high-pressure techniques, one sentence: Get the information. Have it back within an hour, and let's act on it."

Paul--"I think it's interesting talking about torture here in that it's become enhanced interrogation technique. It sounds like Newspeak. Nobody's for the torture, and I think that's important. But as far as taking care of a problem like this, the president has the authority to do that. If we're under imminent attack, the president can take that upon himself to do it."


This is a great example of why Paul is so abysmally bad at debating. He shouldn't have conceded the high ground to anyone by saying that "nobody's for torture." Giuliani and Romney made it pretty clear that they were, and Hunter didn't exactly back away from the idea. Of course, it gets worse:

Tancredo--"You say that -- that nuclear devices have gone off in the United States, more are planned, and we're wondering about whether waterboarding would be a -- a bad thing to do? I'm looking for "Jack Bauer" at that time, let me tell you." (Laughter, applause.)


Oh that's just great. While we're at it, let's get Dirty Harry, John Rambo, and Batman on the case.

Andrew Sullivan seized on this part of the debate, too:

Some issues really are paramount moral ones. Two candidates opposed [torture] clearly and honorably: McCain and Paul...For me, then, the debate winnowed the field of candidates down to two: McCain and Paul. That was quick."


Which is fine and good, except (and it really, really pains me to point this out) I don't really think that Ron Paul staked out the clear anti-torture stance that McCain did. True, his "newspeak" reply was both admirable and correct (although, probably over the heads of the audience--anyone want to bet on whether as many people got "newspeak" vs. "Jack Bauer"?) But he also said "the president has the authority to do that" which seems to leave things wide-open. I don't know if Dr. Paul meant it that way--he's clearly not a particularly adroit speaker off the cuff--but I think Sullivan (and others) are just assuming Paul is anti-torture because of his libertarian bend.

I read Paul's reply as acknowledging torture for what it is, but also leaving the door open to it in extreme circumstances. I could be misunderstanding him, but if so that is only because he was all over the place. Assuming for the moment that Paul does not actually favor torture, he had an opportunity to separate himself from the field by making that clear, and from McCain by pointing out that we wouldn't even be entertaining these scenarios in the first place but for our belligerent foreign policy, which McCain fully supports and would expand.

Either way, this is disappointing, to say the least.

5.15.2007

if god has a sense of humor...

...I'd like to think he's having the angels dress as Teletubbies today.

5.14.2007

my 80's music--anthrax

Apropos of absolutely nothing...I've wondered at what point "80's music" became a genre. Nobody really talks about "70's music"...they talk about disco, prog rock, soul, etc. But for some reason when people say "80's music" it generally implies the goofy, synth-heavy pop performed by people for whom neon was not an inert gas nor mousse a food item.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Except that most of it sucked.

I am a child of the 1980's, which means I remember the Challenger but I don't remember Reagan getting shot. More importantly, it means the 1980's were the years in which I cut my musical teeth.

And even in the 80's, I just didn't care for "80's music".

So I'm going to talk periodically about the music I did (and still do) like from the days when cell phones were car phones and CDs were a luxury item.

A is always a good place to start. Anthrax's "State of Euphoria" was one of the first cassette tapes I ever bought, and the first that could properly be called "metal" (unless you count Def Leppard and Whitesnake, which I don't.) I wore that thing out.

Anthrax was fast and loud, but not really angry. They had a sense of humor. While Metallica was being greeted backstage by armies of naked women and barrels of Jaegermeister, while Megadeth was trying their best to be the "smart" metal band, Anthrax was reading comic books.

In short, they were a band a comic book-obsessed kid in the suburbs could relate to. And they rocked.

i don't know if you can understand that, but our vertical leap is beyond all measurement

The Mooninites are free!

Long live Peter Berdovsky's hair!

5.11.2007

fyf

This is just a friendly reminder that Achewood rules.

Pat is such a great character because he basically embodies everybody I hate.

viva los perros libres!

Something I've been meaning to do for a while now is to add a Durham-centric section to the sidebar, and start including material in that vein.

Maybe this piece by a friend and neighbor of mine will get that jump-started:

On April 16, I became a criminal almost without realizing it.

I let my dog off his leash in a public park.

(...)

Our area has its share of petty crimes. An occasional minor burglary, vandalism or attempted scam seem to be common nearly everywhere.

But on Easter weekend, someone was arrested on my street for selling heroin out of his mother's house. A woman was attacked on a jogging trail a few weeks ago. We've seen discarded condoms on the path to the dog park. An abandoned car sat across from a church for nearly a week before the police finally tagged it. (It took at least three phone calls.) And there are strong suspicions of drug deals happening in the park at night.

So the zeal of the Durham police officer who spotted us and pursued us through the park was particularly galling.

By the time he caught up with us he was out of breath, pale and determined. We were issued citations with $25 fines, plus $110 in court costs, and given trial dates. Yes, we could just pay the fines. Why was the court cost necessary if we didn't go to court? "You'll have to speak to the magistrate about that" was the answer.


It goes on.

I can see the point of leash laws in the abstract...but the reality is that there are hundreds (thousands?) of "nuisance" laws on the books that are almost never enforced unless, you know...someone is actually creating a nuisance. And this was not the case.

We usually walk our dog with Richard and the woman with him who got ticketed...if not for being elsewhere that evening, either my wife or I would have been cited, too. And it wouldn't have been because our dogs were causing a problem for anyone. If a leashed dog we don't know or anyone with kids comes within 100 feet, everybody hooks up. If the park is busy, the dogs stay leashed. We don't let them off anywhere near a street.

The only reason they got cited was because the officer didn't have to chase these otherwise law-abiding citizens down, didn't have to worry about a violent confrontation, didn't have to do anything resembling--police work.

5.09.2007

thank you

...to everyone who has indulged my quarter-life crisis (hell yes I am going to live to 120), either by responding to that post or just by listening to me talk.

Seriously, you have no idea how much the various versions of "I know how you feel" that I have received have helped.

I have decided not to do anything rash for the time being, for a variety of reasons. But I do think that my next job search--when it happens--will include quite a few positions that do not contain the word "professor".