Friday, March 30, 2012

How to Lose Faith in America

Just go read the comments on just about anything on the Star's website. The comments that depressed me this morning were the ones after Barb Shelley's column on what healthcare freedom means to her.

When you read the comments, just remember they were made by people that are our neighbors and co-workers (maybe even our friends).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

June 5

There is a 99% chance one of my favorite albums of the year will be released on this date.

Here is the trailer for "Heaven" by The Walkmen.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Look At Me! Look At Me!

Here is one of those things you probably already knew but didn't have any proof for.

Researchers at Western Illinois University studied the Facebook habits of 294 students, aged between 18 and 65, and measured two "socially disruptive" elements of narcissism – grandiose exhibitionism (GE) and entitlement/exploitativeness (EE).
GE includes ''self-absorption, vanity, superiority, and exhibitionistic tendencies" and people who score high on this aspect of narcissism need to be constantly at the centre of attention. They often say shocking things and inappropriately self-disclose because they cannot stand to be ignored or waste a chance of self-promotion.
The EE aspect includes "a sense of deserving respect and a willingness to manipulate and take advantage of others".
The research revealed that the higher someone scored on aspects of GE, the greater the number of friends they had on Facebook, with some amassing more than 800. 
Those scoring highly on EE and GG were also more likely to accept friend requests from strangers and seek social support, but less likely to provide it, according to the research.

The article also explains that there have been other studies suggesting increased narcissism among students, though it also points out that the relationship between social media and narcissism is thus far correlational and not causal.

No report yet on what writing a blog about whatever happens to interest you correlates with. I am pretty sure it correlates with being awesome.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why I Can Eat a Bag of Pretzels

Because they don't smell!!!
The study, carried out by the Institute Food and Nutrition in The Netherlands, saw participants serving themselves custard out of squeezy tubes, while different concentrations of custard aroma were wafted past their nostrils. When a stronger smell was used, the amount of custard the participants ate decreased. The result appears in the wonderfully titled journal Flavor. 
So, I will now start working on my best-selling diet book,  "The Bacon, Cheese, and Onion Diet." I will make millions!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chart of The Day

Can't imagine what this chart might mean...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Geoengineering is Deja Vu, not Vuja De

" ever get that funny little feeling Vuja De? No, not Deja Vu. This is Vuja De. This is the strange feeling that somehow, this has never happened before." - George Carlin

Please forgive the cliched quote intro, but I am too disturbed by the subject of this post to come up with more original material. I've noticed an increasing amount of reporting dedicated to the idea of geoengineering, or 'hacking the planet,' as a way to address global climate change. The majority of the coverage seems to hinge on two points.

First, world politics, and specifically the U.S. political process, is so hopelessly mired in talk of economics (i.e., that's code for having a vested interest in the status quo or being scared of the cost of remediation as demonstrated by James Inhofe on Rachel Maddow) that the best case scenario of meaningful action on climate or pollution issues will be too little, too late. Second, really smart guys like Bill Gates think we should prepare for global level interventions that are independent of emissions such as seeding the troposphere with reflective material and the like. Only cursory mention of negative effects is ever mentioned.

Hopefully I'm not the only person scared negative feces by this. Set aside the fact that, much like genetic manipulation, even testing certain geoengineering schemes has the potential to do widespread and irrevocable harm. People, smart and otherwise, seem to be treating the idea of geoengineering as a brand new thing that we need to try out to see if it really works. Even assuming that the giant science experiment to see what would happen if millions of years worth of carbon was aerosolized called global climate change isn't conclusive because the science is 'fuzzy,' there's another easy example of how poorly examined solutions often create more problems than are solved.

About 100 years ago, we decided there wouldn't be enough nitrogen fixed through normal processes to support food for a growing population. Enter the Haber process to artificially augment the nitrogen cycle. Great idea in principle, but mix in big business pushing artificial fertilizers and food producers being too lazy to test soil before applying fertilizer, and what do we have? There's a lot of money wasted on excess fertilizer, there's a giant dead zone in the gulf from runoff, and water is too polluted to drink safely in one of the nation's richest agricultural areas. We could have addressed much of the nitrogen deficit by fertilizing with animal waste instead of lagooning it, but building that infrastructure was too much trouble I guess.

Unfortunately it seems that half-assed, cheap ideas are rarely cheap in the end, but are always half-assed. History seems ready to repeat with geoengineering. Logically it seems that if we purposefully augment the composition of the environment as a response to global emissions, but we don't limit global emissions, we lock ourselves into a geoengineering loop until the day we run out of fossil fuels.

You might assume from reading this post that I'm about to start drinking heavily, and I was until I bought 10,000 shares in an Silicon Valley start-up that specializes in artificial volcanoes. That should be more than enough to finance my new floating, domed, solar, tidal, ship-based city state in the Caribbean. Have fun living an Escape from New York scenario on the mainland, suckers!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Song Day

This one is from Lambchop, a band that has been around for a long time but I have just discovered. Also the video fits in with the theme of the previous post...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Photo of the Day

Courtesy of ESL... Ooooh Yeah!

The Science of Basketball

In which two of my great loves, basketball and statistical nerdery, are combined...

There are smart basketball coaches in the world, but when you hear a coach called a "genius" you can pretty safely assume the speaker hasn't really thought about his word choice. These days, however, actual scientists are getting into the business of figuring out sports. The results are often amazing, and this paper is one of the best examples I have seen yet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blunt Amendment

Congratulations to Democrats on defeating a bill that likely would have resulted in insurance companies and employers denying coverage for all sorts of things.

Congratulations to Missouri on once again being associated with backwards ignorance and deception.

Free Blog Counter