2.28.2007

nc ruins night out

Today I've had my first collision with North Carolina's Notoriously Stupid Liquor Laws*. What kills me about this is that I wasn't even trying to get liquor. Or even a beer, for that matter, though at this point I sure could use one...

There's a show that recently debuted on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, called Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job. It defies easy explanation--the best I can come up with is: think "Mr. Show", but with less narrative coherence and possibly written by precocious but likely stoned 8-year-olds. And if that doesn't make any sense to you, you'll probably never want to watch it, anyway.

To tell the truth, I'm not even sure that I like it, but I find it interesting enough that when I noticed the guys who do the show are out on tour, and that tour is stopping in Chapel Hill tonight, and that tickets to said show in Chapel Hill are a mere $10 advance and $12 at the door, I figured why not check it out? It's bound to be more edifying than the equivalent amount of time in front of the TV. (These days, what isn't?)

Anyway.

Enter North Carolina's Notoriously Stupid Liquor Laws. The show is at Local 506, a club I didn't even bother looking up until today, because I'd passed it two weeks ago while M and I were out for Valentine's Day. I knew where it was on Franklin St. (everything in Chapel Hill is on Franklin St.) so all I needed to know was what time the show started and if tickets were still available.

If you've already followed the link above, you already know where this is heading. On the club's front page, I find:

IMPORTANT - Please Read

Advance Purchase of Membership is Required to Attend Shows at Local 506. Join online - click here



OK, no problem, these membership fees are usually nominal (in this case, $3) just enough to keep the great unwashed from wandering in off the street. I click on the link and find:


IMPORTANT: Advance Purchase of Membership is Required to Attend Shows at Local 506. Local 506 operates as a private club in order to serve liquor in addition to beer. In accordance with NC Law, membership is required to attend shows and must be purchased 3 days in advance. [emphasis added]


This is not a thorough and complete investigation of the relevant statute, but my understanding after poking around a bit is that for an establishment to serve liquor, it either has to serve food or be a private club, and part of being a private club means that you can't be issued a membership until at least 3 days after submission of your application for membership.

I suppose the "logic" at work here is that you can't go on an impulse bender in public unless there's at least the possibility of the place being able to offer you some soakage. Not that anything but the good judgment of a bartender prevents me from going into any number of places and getting tanked while ignoring their menu.

What's really funny to me is that you don't even have to be 21 to be a member at Local 506!!! You just have to pay an additional $3 to get in.

Just to recap, here is a non-exhaustive list of things I can do without a 3-day waiting period in NC:

--Buy any firearm that isn't a handgun
--Get married
--Get a tattoo
--Get pierced
--Have elective surgery

And the list of things I do have to wait 3 days for:

--Get into an 18-and-up comedy show at a place that serves liquor but not food.

Given the flux of population that occurs in this area, I cannot possibly be the first person to whom this has happened. It sucks for places like Local 506, and to their credit, they point this silliness out to you on their front page. But I really wish they would just sell some frozen pizzas or something.

All I can say is, I'm definitely driving to DC to buy my liquor now.



*Yes, I know that many--if not most--states have notoriously stupid liquor laws. But some states are definitely worse than others. In AZ, for example, any and all alcoholic beverages can be purchased at grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies, during most hours of the day. And to the extent that the hours are limited, they really aren't that obnoxious (so un-obnoxious in fact, that I can't even recall what the limits are, because I never ran afoul of them.) Also, there are bars that open at 6am, which is great not only if you are an alcoholic, but also if you are an overnight shift worker.

And I haven't even gotten into the socialist atrocity that is the NC ABC.

2.27.2007

postdoctoral rant (part 23 of a never-ending series)

I just spent two days producing yet another set of data for the Journal of Unreproducible Results. This has been happening a lot lately. Promising data crushed by the realities of (non)replication.

I am reminded that there is a reason I carved out a niche for myself doing physiolgical measurements rather than this molecular biology voodoo shit that everyone and their sister seems to know how to do these days, and that you have to include if you want to get published...well, basically anywhere at this point. I'm tired of chasing smudges around, squinting real hard to see that the one on the right really is bigger and darker than the one on the left, if you just click your heels and believe. Like one of those magic eye pictures. And that it will be again when you do the same damn thing next week.

Please, dear god, give me a rate constant, a permeability coefficient, and a freaking procedure that I can see the bones of, because if I spend another 48 hours washing a piece of paper intermittantly to get a different answer every time I do it, I might as well spend that time playing the slots.

(kicks can)

In other news, I finished my book chapter, but it has to go through an internal review by my employer before I can send it out (I discovered this very late in the game).

In other other news, I thought of an idea for a novel last night, and I think I should pursue it. At this point, I think I have at least as much of a chance of making that work as anything I'm doing in my day job right now.

2.22.2007

az seriously considering making class boring by law

Via Jesse Walker comes news of some unsettling legislation being discussed in my old stompin' grounds:

...Arizona, where a Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that would ... ban professors at public colleges and universities, while working, from:

Endorsing, supporting or opposing any candidate for local, state or national office.

Endorsing, supporting or opposing any pending legislation, regulation or rule under consideration by local, state or federal agencies.

Endorsing, supporting or opposing any litigation in any court.

Advocating “one side of a social, political, or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan controversy.”

Hindering military recruiting on campus or endorsing the activities of those who do.


My experience with higher education--vast though it is, now being the first time in over a decade I don't spend every day of my life on a university campus--is admittedly skewed. I've never had the experience of a prof's lecture devolving into an overtly political screed. The handful of "humanities" and "social science" classes I took as an undergrad were populated mostly by aspiring engineers and scientists who were probably studying pchem or emag during the lectures anyway. So it's difficult for me to see this as much more than a solution in search of a problem. But maybe that isn't everyone's experience.

If you have a prof who is spending his or her lecture time campaigning for Ralph Nader (or whatever), this is something a dean or department head ought to handle. Not because it constitutes a violation of the students' "rights", but because the prof isn't doing their job, and the students aren't getting what they (or their parents, or Sallie Mae, or the state lottery) are paying for. A state law prohibiting the utterance of anything potentially controversial is probably overkill.

What actually bothers me is not simply that this bill would regulate what profs can say in the classroom (though that is certainly reason enough for it to be a problem), but that the boundaries of what constitutes "while working" are not clearly delineated.

Most professors (especially in the sciences) actually spend a relatively small fraction of their working time in the classroom. As someone who aspires to have the title myself in the not-too-distant future, I can attest that most professors in the sciences would characterize the fraction of their time spent teaching to be "as little as possible".

The remainder of their time "on the clock" is spent dealing with the administrative business of teaching (preparing lectures, grading, office hours), and a lot more time engaged in their own scholarly work: writing, reading, mentoring graduate students and postdocs, running a lab (which is many cases is like running a small company), writing grants, reviewing papers, going to seminars, sitting on committees for the university, attending conferences, serving on editorial boards for journals, sitting on study sections, and maybe--just maybe--setting foot in the lab and conducting an experiment or two.

Just as an example, I think my graduate mentor spends about 8 hours lecturing. Every year.

So...during all that time, they are not to express a political opinion to anyone?

This is probably a moot point...even if the bill passes, it is almost certain to be challenged in court and likely overturned (I would hope) on any number of constitutional grounds. Still, I occasionally entertain the fantasy of landing a faculty job in Tucson (summers aside, I really do miss the place) but I have to admit this makes that seem a lot less appealing.

2.19.2007

2.14.2007

wasted

(I know I said I wasn't going to blog for a while...but I've put in two unusually productive days of writing and editing, and I'm more or less on schedule now. Besides, this came easy.)


Unlike Gino, I don't entertain any strong feelings about Barak Obama. I simply view him to be a blank-slate candidate, a charismatic guy with nice hair (the last bald man elected president commanded D-Day, and prior to that was well before television), and someone with little enough baggage that voters simply tend to project their hopes onto him. Which is to say, his top qualifications in 2008 are "not a Republican" and "not Hillary".

The fact that he benefits from a significant proportion of the population who want to vote for a black man just to prove how Not Racist they are is really just icing on the cake. In fact, I'd say his next-most-important qualifications are "not Al Sharpton", "not Jesse Jackson", and "not Alan Keyes"--a truly unfortunate set of candidates, when you consider that the least kooky among them is Al Sharpton. (I'm saying this having voted for Keyes once, myself.)

The one thing I really do (or at least, did) like about Obama was the fact that he has been pretty consistent in his opposition to the Iraq war clusterfuck.

"We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized, and should never been waged, and on which we have now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."


So I am rather disappointed that he has backed off of this statement that the lives of American troops have been “wasted” in Iraq.

Because in a word--they have.

Every American (and Iraqi) blown up in the cradle of civilization is one less person that could otherwise be living, working, falling in love, raising children, helping their neighbors out, coaching little league, supporting their church, starting a business, watching the sunset, taking vacations, having a beer on a Saturday afternoon, walking their dog, and doing whatever it is that they would do with the little bit of life that they have under even the best of circumstances. And to my mind, the fact that they won’t, and for no discernable benefit whatsoever, is the very definition of “waste”.

Maybe I’m just as guilty of projection here, but I think that this is exactly what Mr. Obama had in mind when he said what he said, his subsequent revisions notwithstanding. Because it isn’t exactly a radically pacifist idea that soldiers sent off to die ought to at least be fighting for something.

The incessant need to be all things to all people in this quadrennial beauty contest we put on to determine our leader has a real way of grinding any actual convictions to dust. As a result, we usually end up the leaders we deserve.

2.12.2007

i like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by

Thanks are in order to you few kind folks who check this space far more regularly than the frequency and content of posts warrants.

I owe a longsuffering editorial assistant a book chapter that I have been delaying for a few months now, and in our last conversation I think I assigned myself the somewhat soft deadline of "mid-February". Which I guess means sometime this week.

So I'm on that, and not this, until I'm done.

See you soon.

(Other wit and wisdom from Douglas Adams here.)

2.09.2007

lazy blogging friday

You Are Most Like Bill Clinton

No doubt, your legacy may be a little seedier than you'd like.
But even though you've done some questionable things, you're still loved by almost all.


Given the alternatives, I think this is pretty good.

2.07.2007

fulton county gets one right nifongs federal investigation?

UPDATE--A commenter elsewhere pointed out that this might not be the best news. The last paragraph of the AJC story states:

Johnston's family was angry that Howard was bringing the case to the grand jury, spokesman Hutchins said.

"The family of Kathryn Johnston is extremely unhappy and disappointed with today's turn of events. Mr. Howard's move today of pressing charges would effectively limit the scope of and the potential charges of a federal investigation, and borders on tampering with a federal investigation."


I have no idea whether this is actually the case or not, but it seems any enthusiasm for Howard's actions should probably be tempered. Sorry, I'll read the whole article next time before I hit "publish".

---original post begins below---


Fulton County (GA) district attorney Paul Howard is seeking felony murder charges against at least one of the Atlanta police officers involved in the shooting of Kathryn Johnston in an overly zealous and thoroughly botched execution of a no-knock warrant last November.

This isn't the first time an officer has faced charges over this kind of thing, but it's really, really rare to see police called to account for the collateral damage in the war on drugs.

Particularly galling are the comments of the officer's defense attorney:

Csehy conceded his client may have made mistakes, but he said Junnier didn't commit murder. "There was no malfeasance here. It was sloppy police work," Csehy said. "It was cutting corners."


Per Dictionary.com:

mal·fea·sance – the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used esp. of an act in violation of a public trust).


Maybe I'm just a cop-hating bleeding heart, but I'm pretty sure that "sloppy police work" that leads to barging into an old woman's home unannounced with guns drawn and her ending up dead might qualify.

is it too late to make a 'flight risk' joke?

How bizarre.

Though I find it less shocking (than every cable news show on at the gym this afternoon) to discover that astronauts might be just as prone to being screwed up as the general population. If anything, I'd think they'd be more so--to strap yourself into a contraption that propels itself straight up by a massive explosion and returns to earth in free fall with an approximately 2% failure rate (about the same chances of getting pregnant if you only ever use condoms, for reference) you have to be a little crazy, don't you?

Anyway, this is only the most recent example of the astronaut menace. God, I hate those guys.

2.06.2007

fitter, happier

Q--What do you get when you cross a lazy, one-size-fits-all approach to health asessment with a lazy, one-size-fits-all approach to education?

A--BMI report cards in the public schools!

The premise being, I suppose, that parents won't know that their children are fat unless the public schools tell them? If this is really the case, childhood obesity is the least of our problems.

What kills me here is that Gov. Beebe is right, but for the completely wrong reasons. The program should be opposed, because it is stupid on its face. However, the governor doesn't want to damage anyone's "self-esteem". (It's hard for me to even type that combination of words without gagging.) If anything, today's children (and many adults, ergo the problem with the children) need to have their self-esteem brought down a notch or two. If reality TV has taught us anything, it's that delusions of granduer are positively epidemic.

More to the point--dissatisfaction with oneself or one's station in life is what motivates people to become something better. It's a process that we ought not discourage, especially in our little sub-humans.

2.02.2007

don't panic

This is largely in response to Kal, who takes exception with those of us who view Boston's response to the ATHF advertisements as a bit, well, stupid.

The most rational response to terrorism is twofold:

1) Prosecute/kill as many extant terrorists as you can without adding to the list of grievances the population from whence they come have against you (getting rid of terrorists is kind of pointless if you are creating new ones through the very same process.)

2) Proceed with life as normal on the home front, implementing preventative measurements only in the face of clearly defined threats.

That's strategy. Tactics, obviously, could be debated ad infinitum, especially on the first point. Books are written about such things, and I am ill-suited to make a detailed case.

But what I really wanted to talk about in light of this week's stupidity in Boston was the second point.

It is critical to realize that terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology. The point is to break the collective will of a government and/or its people with relatively little resources. Terrorists don't invade and occupy countries. They blow up buses and shopping malls. They hold children hostage. They kidnap easy targets and video cutting their heads off. When they get lucky, they hijack a plane and fly it into a skyscraper.

The greatest asset that terrorists have is the pervasive and disproportionate fear we have of dying in any way that would make the evening news.

Even in Israel, you're more likely to die in a car wreck than you are as a result of a suicide bombing. In the US, you're more likely to die from falling down the stairs or choking on a piece of food.

The body count of a terrorist attack is nearly irrelevant from the point of view of the terrorists' objective. If it slows the economy, makes people more afraid, puts pressure on the government, then the attack is successful. It doesn't matter if one person dies or 3200.

And the real killer here is that prevention is basically impossible, especially if suicide bombers are involved. A suicide bomb set off in line at the security checkpoint of an airport would be nearly as successful as one on a plane. A shopping mall would be as effective as a courthouse.

The only thing we can really control is the response we have. If we want to confound the terrorists, we should keep flying, keep shopping, keep making money. Keep watching decadent TV, eating with the hand we wipe our ass with, drinking, fucking joyously, and living the good life of a free and unafraid people.

But most importantly, we should not panic.

This isn't to say that some basic, common sense security measures shouldn't be implemented. For example, not allowing guns and explosives onto an airplane is probably a pretty good idea (and was, I might add, a policy in effect long before 9.11.01). Submitting every 3rd person to "additional screening" even if that person happens to be a paraplegic grandmother from Nebraska is stupid.

Checking out a report of a "suspicious device" is probably a good idea. Assuming at the outset that it is a bomb and shutting down an entire city until you know otherwise is stupid.

What the city of Boston (and though I took a stab at Boston yesterday, I have no doubt this could happen almost anywhere in the US the way things are these days) has shown the terrorists is that all you have to do to sow fear and chaos is leave some strange objects scattered around high-profile areas. That's it. You don't have to smuggle uranium or anthrax. You don't have to take the risk of manufacturing explosives. You could fill 20 Jansport backpacks with old phone books, have people drop them at 20 subway stations simultaneously, and probably keep every emergency responder in the city tied up for at least an hour or two.

And then you could do some real damage.

And while my criticism is leveled primarily at governments here, the governments are responding to the people. People in the US expect the government to be guardian-protector, to not merely respond to Bad Things when they happen, but keep them from ever happening in the first place. It is part and parcel of the same mentality that expects the government to ensure health care, educate your children, protect your business from foreign competition, and just generally make sure that everything is going to be OK.

As a people, we really, really need to get a grip. Our survival depends on it.

2.01.2007

is bahstahn retahded?



Seriously. You guys ought to be embarrassed about this. And your mayor is a fascist.

I was fairly certain that we had lost our collective mind when we starting being scared of toothpaste, but now that an entire city panics over Lite-Brite it's official.

There is no hope for us.

I wish I was kidding.

UPDATE--Wow. The guys arrested over this have some serious balls. Good for them...it's about time someone stood up to this kind of bullshit.



I think the indignation of the reporters that these guys simply refuse to play by their rules is utterly priceless.