Monday, September 29, 2003

The Miracle of Modern Science

God Bless anti-biotics. I still feel like crap but at least now I feel like crap scented with a delicate cologne. For those wondering, Jeff is my uncle, who is a doctor. This is him:

While I'm posting pictures, here's (from left to right) my cousin Jenny's boyfriend Jason, my cousin Jenny (isn't she cute!), and my cousin Annie.

And since I'm here, Stu, remember when SMG was hot? *sigh*


I am horrendously sick with a sinus infection. Jeff got me an Rx for amoxicillin, but it hasn't kicked in yet. I feel awful.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

I Need A Life

I had nothing to do last night, so I typed up a transcript of the first 20 minutes of the Democratic Presidential Primary Debate that took place yesterday at Pace University, co-sponsored by the Wall Street Journal and CNBC. The first 20 minutes consist of questions and answers about Iraq. Typically, most of the candidates knocked off a quick line about supporting the troops and then derailed into bashing Bush for being dumb and not having a plan. Also, they haven't been reading any of the personal accounts filtering through the blogosphere, because they all seem to think everything is failing miserably over there. Once again I was impressed by Carol Moseley-Braun's quiet dignity, and once again the panel threw her token questions and then ignored her. Anyway, here is a link:

and a mirror:

Thursday Is Closer To Friday Than Wednesday

So the backend part of my application finally got to the point where I can use it, so I'm reworking all my code to use it. Also, a whole shitstorm of new requirements and verbiage came down from on high, so for the first time this week I'm really busy and its wonderful. It's already 1 o'clock and it feels like I just finished my morning coffee.

Anyway, I finally went back to the gym yesterday, ran a couple miles and bouldered for a bit. It was nice, but I need to get some real climbing shoes. My sneakers are falling apart and even in pristine condition are too clumsy to use for climbing.

With regards to politics, I'm looking forward to this afternoon's dnc presidential primary, although I won't be able to watch it until 8pm since I will be at work during the debate. Here's a couple questions I'd like to hear answered:

1) Most of the candidates have a lot of criticism for the Bush administration and the right in general. The American public is suffering due to the counter-productive bickering between extremely partisan politicians. As president, what would you do to counter this habit of accusation vs cooperation and foster bi-partisanship in the Congress?

2) For General Clark: In your recently published $100bn plan to bolster the economy, you set aside $40bn over two years to create new jobs. What happens to those jobs in 2 years when the money gets reappropriated?

I'll post more questions as I think of em. I doubt they will be answered, but it gets my brain working anyway.

Monday, September 22, 2003

My Job Rules

...because the people I work with are awesome. Case in point: here's an excerpt from an email my project lead sent me this afternoon:

-----Original Message-----
From: WeberFlink, Jordan
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2003 3:43 PM
To: T****, Matt
Subject: RE: Remoting


Thanks for the email, I'm fine getting a remote object ( well, theoretically ) but the IDE raises an error when I try to assign a value to the ApplicantGender field of the DemographicProfile class. It says I need a reference to FortisHealth.**********.*****.**************. Thoughts?


Reply: Very good, young Jedi. I didn’t give you everything you needed to be successful. Just testing your skills…

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Blog de la Cape

Hi everybody! I'm on the cape briefly before flying back to Milwaukee, and I thought it would be neat to blog from home. The seminar ended on Friday, and mom and dad picked me up. Since then I've done some laundry, eaten a bunch of great food (there's no seafood like Cape Cod seafood) and watched a whole bunch of TV. Well, later!

Friday, September 19, 2003

Quote of the Week

Last night on Conan, our amicable red-haired host asked Charlie Sheen why he didn't have a bachelor party before marrying Denise Richards.

His response?

"Well, it seemed a bit, um... redundant?"

Why XML?

Lee's comment: Unrelated to all things BU, what does an XML feed DO, exactly?

Answer: XML provides a platform-independent marked-up document. That's exactly the same as HTML, except that XML is more extensible. In fact, that's what it stands for - eXtensible Markup Language (HTML == HyperText Markup Language). HTML is designed specifically to markup hypertext - when you put a tag like < strong > around some text, it becomes marked-up hypertext that your browser interprets as needing a bold font for display. XML is extensible - which means you can define your own tags, which HTML doesn't allow you to do. There is a well known set of tags in an XML scheme called RSS (Really Simple Syndication) which anyone can use to syndicate their weblog or other serialized publishing.

So why is that a good thing? Well suppose you are short-sighted and like viewing text in a really big font. XML syndication via the RSS schema lets you use a program that understands RSS to grab my xml feed, which contains just the data without all of the style choices I made, and redisplay it with a really big font. Or in the color red. Or however you like.

RSS feeds also contain a timestamp - so if you want, you can get a program called an aggregator which gets the XML feed for all of your favorite blogs, updates them every 5 minutes, and shows you all of them on one page. No more remembering 50 blog links - just enter them once into an aggregator, and you'll never miss an article again. Advanced aggregators let you customize how blogs appear, whether to categorize based on origin, title, date, etc. They're neat tools.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if BlogSpot saves my post as an XML document, and passes my post and my display template to an XML transformer which turns it into HTML automagically. It would be an easy way to automate their hosting process.

So why am I providing an XML feed? A) I'm a computer geek and B) It provides a self-marking document which allows anyone to display the data anywhere without having to scrape my weblog page or remove all the HTML crap they don't want.

To try a good RSS aggregator, try

Thursday, September 18, 2003

BU Apathy

I just had a thought -

Almost everyone at BU disliked chancellor silber, but the university lives in an encapsulated microcosm. It took an enormous act of venality towards the gay/lesbian alliance at BU academy to make the Globe take notice. Everything else he did (and there was plenty) got dismissed, because despite the students' love of bashing him, no one could be bothered to actually do anything about it. So I'm thinking about maintaining a 'Silber-Watch'. What do y'all think? Also, Jeremy please come up with a more humorous title for me. I know you've got a hum-dinger of a pun hidden in that gigantic elephant-head of yours.


Tom Toles makes me giggle:

Isabel Prep

My family summered on Cape Cod long before we moved there permanently, and we were in our little cottage in Chatham in August of '91, when Hurricane Bob hit. We had the requisite water, flashlights, bleach (does anyone know what the hell the bleach is for???) etc. We still weren't fully prepared.

My sister and I were 8 and 10, respectively, and as we piled into the basement for what would be a 5 hour stay, the only entertainment we had was our imagination, and our cats. As any parent can tell you, the imagination of ~10 year olds is rather active, and their respect for a cat's (or a kitten's, puppy's, etc) privacy is inversely proportional to their boredom.

Parents, have something in the basement for your kids to do.

Royale and I spent the first 10 minutes being scared by the force of the winds and the fact that our parents, normally bastions of authority and confidence, were obviously worried and uncertain. However, as David Brin notes in The Postman, the human mind simply cannot sustain fear very long in an unchanging situation. When Brin's protagonist finds himself staring into the grinning skull of a dead U.S. postman, he freezes up - but after a minute, the fear is dissipated by the boredom of remaining frozen, staring at an unmoving corpse. Similarly, Royale and I quickly became bored in the basement.

At first we ran around playing and screaming, but Dad, who likes his quiet and was under a lot of stress, got very irritated and made us sit down. So we started playing with the cats. (We had nothing else to do.) At that time we had 2 cats, a female calico named Troops (named after and in support of our troops in the gulf war) and a male orange tom named Treacle (after the delicious english desert of the same coloring.) The cats kept trying to get away and sit in peace, but naturally we kept dragging them back to play with. At this point it was not Dad, but Mom who became irritated, and justifiably so - we really should have let them be, but didn't know better. So to give the cats some peace, she put them out in the Hurricane.

Ooooh boy was that a mistake. We tease her about this all the time, she has never lived it down. Treacle immediately went to the ground level recession at one of the windows into the basement, and huddled against the wind staring down at us meowing. Troops clung to the screen door of the basement sliding door until the wind tore her off and she went cartwheeling away. As soon as mom saw this she rushed outide to grab the cats and bring them back in, but the damage was done. The cats were now very frightened and happy to keep me and Royale company, mewing softly and trembling for at least an hour.

I guess the point of my story is that in addition to the more obvious preparations, you should prepare yourselves, your children, and your pets for the long wait in the storm cellar that will inevitably accompany Hurricane Isabel, assuming you are in her path. Have board games, books, anything you can think of. Get coloring books, cards, dominos, cd-players, walkmen or gameboys with earphones. Get anything that's relatively quiet and time-consuming. Finally, if you think your kids are bothering your pets, whatever you do, don't put them outside. Have carrying cages in the basement with you. It will give your pets a sense of security and some privacy, and best yet you won't be tempted to send them out into the storm, which as my mom can tell you, would make you into a terrible person who abuses animals and should be mercilessly teased for the next 10 years. Right mom?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Uh Oh!

Jeremy is in trouble...


Sorry... But as I enter day 3 of my seminar we've passed the trivial stuff I already knew and gotten to the nitty-gritty. I probably won't have time to post until Friday. Stay well, everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

A Liberal Justification of Iraq

As a sometimes left-leaning individual, you might think I was against the war. And while I disapprove of the way the war was justified and executed, and also think that a lot of our nation's current problems could have been avoided by better handling of it, I nevertheless maintain that it was the morally correct thing to do. The morals behind it were not what motivated the right, but I digress; here is a stunning account of why the war needed to happen, and why we are spending more than we should.

Links Roundup

1. Virginia Postrel has some interesting commentary on a New York Times article (free reg required) about entitlement mentality in Boca Raton. It seems that part of the reason Medicare has skyrocketed out of control is that seniors in Florida are visiting doctors, internists, and specialists every day as part of their community lifestyle. Postrel notes:

'They're not doing anything wrong, of course, just using the system as it was designed. Give people a valuable good for free, and they'll consume lots of it, especially if they have lots of time on their hands. '

2. Retired General Wesley Clark will announce his bid for president. I like this guy. It remains to be seen how he will hold up in a debate, but I saw him on Bill Mahr the other day and he seemed very composed and articulate. Also, he must prove that his lack of political experience does not make him less of a candidate. I look forward to hearing his views on foreign and domestic policy in general, and Iraq and the economy in particular. Lots of pundits have said this election will be won on jobs; how does Clark propose to make some?

3. A joint Israeli-European medical team has developed a "sperm-washing" technique which would allow HIV positive men to father an artificially-inseminated child without passing on the dieases. From the article:
The success of the treatment has prompted American doctors to urge for FDA approval for the procedure to be administered in the U.S. According to statistics, there are thousands of couples in the U.S. in which the husband is an HIV carrier.

4. Ruy Teixeira reports that a poll for the House GOP conference gives Bush Jr. a 49% approval rating. Hey, isn't that the same percent of the popular vote he got in 2000?

5. Finally, Calpundit has an interesting interview with Paul Krugman. Krugman is kind of a weirdo and a little paranoid, but in the particular case of the Bush administration's conspiracy to defraud the american people he has documented hundreds of cases of Bush telling blatant lies, and then for some inexplicable reason never getting called on them.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Reading Material

For those wondering, I almost picked up the Coulter book in General Mitchell Airport. But right next to it was a copy of John McCain's Worth the Fighting For and I couldn't resist. So far it's good, if less humorous than the Franken book.

Post from Seminar

So far the seminar is fun, although long at 12 hours a day. We get about 45 minutes apiece for lunch and dinner, both of which are nice. Today there were burritos, ribs, chicken wings, cookies, soda, etc. I've been reading a bunch of stuff about California's 9th Circuit decision, but don't have a particularly strong opinion. It's kind of an obvious ploy but the Republicans have only themselves and the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore to blaim. Expect light posting this week, since I have basically no free time, and I can't get online at the hotel.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Laptop == Fun

So today I'm flying out to Boston for my training seminar, and I realized its the first time I'll ever be able to take my company laptop on a plane. It's only an hour long flight, but as I explained to Annie (my cousin) last night, it's the principal of the thing. In a nod to Jeremy, I've decided that my viewing material will be Mr. Show Season 3. Ah David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, your hilarious hyjinx tickle my funny bone.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

It's a "Look & Feel" Thing.

I've changed my template around a bit and added an RSS feed. Gratzie, BlogMatrix. Your free RSS feed has quenched my internal guilt about being a computer programmer with an unsyndicated blog. Anyway, it's still not perfect but I like it more now than before. For one thing, the width was key. I definitely felt like the width of the posts was overwhelming. Plus this way my paragraphs look bigger.

Friday, September 12, 2003

First of all, I'd like to thank Stu. It was his post which inspired me to stop treating my blog like an inside-joke forum and really begin writing. I've written three major posts since then and am tremendously proud of myself for actually putting my thoughts down in writing. For one thing, it's helped me understand how I actually feel about the topics I'm writing about. Sometimes we have a vague response to a particular story or idea, but until we express ourselves I find that I, at least, don't have a concrete grasp on what the hell I think. Particularly for me, I have a very hard time articulating verbally. I've always thought to myself that as a comedic actor I have great timing and a flair for delivery, but absolutely no improvisational skills at all. (IF by some chance, dear reader, you do not know me personally, take it for granted that I have an ego roughly the size and disposition of the Hindenberg.) All of which boils down to my having a hard time executing an opinionated conversation unless I'm thoroughly versed in the subject. I guess I'd characterize myself as intelligent, but not knowledgeable. This blog has become an exercise in self-improvement, and a demonstration that when I take the time to get my thoughts in order, I actually do have something to say.

I've recently become very interested in the political process. I've always vaguely identified with liberals, mainly due to the fact that a) my mom is a liberal, and b) my life became a lot easier when I distanced myself from my upper-class white suburban upbringing. (QED for above - I only realized part b as I was sitting at my desk writing this.) Those of you who know me well may scoff at this, but consider: did my first impression come off that way? Or was it once you became a trusted friend that I invited you to a weekend on the Cape?

Recently, as I've been voraciously reading anything and everything I can get my hands on, I've noticed something. While I still find the extreme right to be abhorrent distorters of truth, the far-left isn't appealing to me at all either. Indeed, rational, moderate conservatives like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are extremely intriguing to me. My Dad always says that he doesn't discuss politics with people because it's too much of a hassle. But I'm beginning to think that, like me, he feels he doesn't fit into any particular category and wouldn't want to be labeled with one. I guess if anything I'm a left-leaning centrist; but really I'm still defining myself politically. I'm thinking about moving the blog to MovableType, because I want a built-in comments system that visitors can read without clicking, and because Daniel Drezner told me to. The only drawback is that I need a hosting webserver first.

Next on my list: getting one of either Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity's books, and forcing myself to read through it to see if anything they say sounds remotely reasonable. After all, as I said below Intellectual Laziness is the bane of the modern day American. I can hardly hold myself to a lesser standard and base my opinion of them on the work of someone who dislikes them and is diametrically opposed to their views.

From Slashdot: Democrats have just introduced the Space Exploration Act of 2003 to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Bill, H.R. 3057, aka the "Space Exploration Act of 2003", sets forth a set of goals and a vision for the progress of manned spaceflight over the next 20 years. In particular, the bill sets an 8 year goal of "the development and flight demonstration of a reusable space vehicle" capable of transporting astronauts and equipment to Earth-sun and Earth-moon libration points as well as moon orbit. Libration points are points in space where a gravitic equilibrium exists. At Earth-Sun L1, a satellite or observatory station would retain a one-year orbit of the sun despite being closer due to the influence of Earth's gravity. That is, in any orbit, the closer you are to the gravity source, the faster you circumnavigate the orbit. That is why Venus' orbit is ~225 days, and Mercury's orbit is ~180 days. Normally a satellite between the earth in the sun would revolve around the sun too fast to stay in a useful position between the two bodies; but at the libration point earth's gravity slows the orbit to a 365 day revolution.

A similar situation occurs at Sun-Earth L2, but it is on the dark side of the earth, farther away from the sun. Normally this would result in Earth moving faster than the satellite/observatory, but at L2, Earth's gravity speeds up the satellite's orbit from, say, 390 days to a standard terran year.

The moon points are similar, but respective to Earth's gravity well and the Moon's orbit (the lunar month). So why is getting to these points useful? An Earth-Sun L1 satellite can monitor solar wind, which arrives at L1 about an hour before hitting Earth. Additionally, L1 satellites can monitor the sun uninterrupted by eclipses by Earth. Normally, satellites in Earth orbit experience a 5 to 30 degree eclipse of the sun due to Earth's shadow every revolution, depending on how high their orbit is. The L2 point is where NASA's new infrared telescope is currently orbiting - since it's permanently in the shadow of the earth, the Sun's light interferes less with its imaging.

In the future, Earth-Moon libration points could be used to beam microwave energy from Lunar nuclear energy plants via a lunosynchronous satellite network back to earth. Who knows what other scientific opportunities will present themselves? But back to the new Bill.

In 10 years, the H.R. 3057 wants NASA to be able to rendezvous with an Earth-orbit crossing asteroid and land on it. How cool is that? Did you ever see the movie Armageddon? That's what they had to do. A big asteroid was going to hit earth and so they went up in rockets, landed on it, drilled a hole and dropped a nuke. The story is far-fetched and the statistics of an asteroid hitting earth are very small. I think I read somewhere that the likelihood of an asteroid causing global catastrophy in the next 1000 years are worse than a bomb set off in a junkyard producing a fully-functional 747 jumbo jet. Nevertheless, I would bet that this part of the plan was put in as a sop to the Pentagon. Plus, they want to land on an asteroid by 2014! How awesome would that be? It is a well documented fact that the moon contains rich deposits of titanium ore, and that there are several asteroid belts containing heavy metals. This kind of program could lead to a huge space-mining industry 50 years down the road. Well, maybe more like 100. Even so, it's heady stuff.

Next up: In 15 years, they want a vehicle that can take off from Earth and land on the moon, as well as "as the development and deployment of a human-tended habitation and research facility on the lunar surface". This, to me, seems a little over-ambitious. Building advanced vehicles and even space stations is one thing. I believe, however, that before we can not only launch materiel into space but land it with a reusable craft, we will need a large infrastructure in orbit around earth. The ISS is a good start, but I think until we have structures capable of docking at least 4 shuttles(or OSP's, rockets, whatever) and holding vast reserves of fuel, as well as providing habitat and life support for a much larger array of personnel, this will be unachievable. Without a major breakthrough in propulsion technology, landing a heavy load of material, even on the reduced-gravity surface of the moon, will be prohibitively expensive. But I hope they prove me wrong.

Lastly, by 2024, they want a vehicle capable of travelling from low-earth orbit to martian orbit or martian lunar orbit, another vehicle capable of going from martian orbit to the martian surface, and a similar habitation on the surface of one of Mars' moons. Mars has 2 moons, Phobos (fear) and Deimos (panic). They were named after the horses that pulled Are's (the greek god of war, complement to the Roman's version Mars) chariot of fire. Phobos is closer to mars and is the larger of the two, and would probably be where such a base would be located.

This is the single most ambitious part of the plan, and I believe it cannot succeed. To be fair, when Kennedy suggested we send men to the Moon, many did not believe that was possible in a mere decade. Even if it is possible, however, many studies have shown that the political motivation behind the Apollo missions were a huge detriment to the American space program in the long run. Before Kennedy's ultimatum, research had been heading towards economic, reuseable low-orbit space flight. The 10 years spent getting to the Moon delayed that research and sucked up huge amounts of cash, causing modern politicians to ware the space programs. Additionally, as the Columbia's recent demise and the subsequent investigation demonstrated, the push to get to space fostered a NASA culture where results took higher priority than safety - and despite NASA's many incredible achievements over the past 30 years, who is to say even more could have been done at less cost if science had been allowed to progress in a more natural fashion?

So we have all these goals set forth in this bill, as well as the establishment of a deputy administrator at NASA heading up a new "Office of Exploration." The single best part of this bill is the creation of a contest system. The Exploration Administrator's primary function would be to implement and oversee a series of design and contract contests for each goal, wherein private and public organizations, international teams, and government programs would compete for a chance to build their design for NASA. The contests would be judged by an independent team reviewing for cost estimate, funding profile, schedule, and risk reduction for development of necessary technologies. The results would be delivered to the Congress. This is an incredibly good idea, as part of the problem with NASA is the corporate culture of throwing money at any problem until it goes away. Here's an example: in one of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's recent hearings, an ex-manager very high up in the hierarchy described that at one point, the foam which is sprayed onto the main booster's exterior was absorbing too much condensation between spraying and launch, which was sometimes several months. The original proposed solution was to build a giant vacuum sealed building to build the shuttle in. Eventually a low-level engineer submitted a solution of chemically altering the foam, which was adopted. But you get the idea. Innovation and competition can only mean good things for NASA.

Now the worst part of the bill. It provides $50 million this year and $200 million next year to get the ball rolling. This is a very small amount of money at NASA. To give you an idea, they had a budget of $28.8 billion in 2000-2001. Given the enormous ambition of the goals set forth in the Bill, I don't understand how they could possibly attach this amount to it. It just doesn't make any sense.

If America wants to succeed in exploring our solar system, we need to commit not only to funding that exploration, but to a vision. Without one, our efforts will be short-lived and unfocused; personal desires and politics will kill American space flight without a common goal. And with the Chinese space agency breathing down our necks and looking set to land on the moon in 5 years, many people in government are starting to feel the heat. I suppose with Bush's $87Bn being sent to Iraq it's hard for the writers of the resolution to ask for more, but hopefully this plan will at least give NASA the vision it so desperately needs, as well as the beginnings of a roadmap towards human exploration of the solar system. That, combined with the recent changes made due to the Columbia accident, and a renewed interest in the space program by the American public, could be exactly the kind of impetus needed to drive America into a golden age of space exploration. Maybe in my lifetime I will get a chace to take a tourist cruise to the moon. Maybe in my children's lifetime we will see a colony on Mars. Maybe, just maybe, someday humans will leave this tiny corner of the galaxy and explore new suns. It's a dream of immortality that inspires. Despite its flaws, I hope this bill gets passed and enacted. Without it, or something like it, spaceflight could be delayed for far too long.

- Jordan
Tom Drake was upset that he didn't get mentioned on the blog yesterday. So: "Secretly, Tom Drake only pretends to agree with Ann Coulter so that I will argue with him about it because he is so very very lonely, and is desperate for conversation and human interaction."

- Jordan, adopting Tom's 'secretly' habit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A very interesting insight into what Iraqi's think about their current situation. This is something you almost never hear about, excepting anecdotal evidence which inevitably supports the speaker's talking points. Seriously, read this.

- Jordan
Britney Spears Is Stupid, Greedy, or A Coward.
(Or some permutation thereof.)

On a recent interview with CNN Crossfire's Tucker Carlson, Britney had this to say:

CARLSON: A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?
SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.
CARLSON: Do you trust this president?
SPEARS: Yes, I do.

This is the kind of message the Taliban was sending the people of Afghanistan. Of course, Britney is not inherently evil, nor is she attempting to enforce this message with violence, torture, fear and repression. The message is nonetheless reprehensible, and one Carlson was undoubtedly happy to hear from such a pop-culture mega-force. The republican right loves this message, and uses a similar tactic in accusing anyone who questions the president of being unpatriotic, or worse, a traitor to America.

One of the worst problems facing America in particular and the human race in general is the tendency towards intellectual laziness. It is far easier to accept what someone in authority tells you, than to think for yourself. Most of the problems in the Middle East can be traced to parents and the media teaching children to hate, and passing that hate from generation to generation. Young minds are extremely impressionable, and FAR too many American parents don't bother to treat their children as potential rational adults - again due to laziness (or in some cases, stupidity in not recognizing the child's right to free thought). It's much easier to tell your children that when the time comes, voting republican or democrat is right because Mommy and Daddy say so than it is to explain issues to them, teach them to do research, and have legitimate discussions on how to make a decision. It's even harder to let a child make up their own mind to disagree with you. As a parent, it's very very easy to tell a child they're wrong, think the way I do, or (insert vague threat here). It's much easier to accept that we are at war because the President says Iraq is a credible threat than to ask questions like "how can you back that statement up?", "have you exhausted diplomatic options?", "what is the exit strategy?", and "how will taking these actions affect our internation credibility and relationships?"

An example I was once given about how I myself sometimes acted in this way was this: someone asked me what stars were. I said they were the suns of distant solar systems, or more specifically flaming balls of gas. I was asked, how do I know? My answer was that scientists in the textbooks I had read (or been forced to read, from a certain perspective, but I digress) said so. I have never been to an observatory. I have never examined the data. For all I know, looking at a star through a powerful telescope would show a tiny fairy with wings winking at me, and there is a global conspiracy by the astronomical and scientific community to decieve humanity about the nature of the universe.

Now, obviously that is an impossible paranoid fantasy, and stars are in fact flaming balls of gas. The point of the excersize was not to question the fact that stars are what they are, but to illustrates an interesting point - nothing should be taken for granted. And we as Americans do take a lot for granted. Like, for example the idea that the President of the United States acts in the best interests of its people. When the first man ventured the theory that stars were in fact hydrogen reactors on a massive scale, there were thousands of skeptics who investigated his claims. Over time, the insurmountable evidence proved that to the best of human knowlege, stars are giant flaming balls of gas. So now, in the current day, it's ok to take that fact for granted. But scientific fact, proven by volumes of debate, data, and skepticism, are not the same as statements made by a political figure. We do not have a Ministry of Truth, this is not Oceana. So when Dubya claims that Niger sold weapons-grade plutonium to Iraq, our first reaction should not have been, as Britney suggested, to "just trust our president in every decision that he makes and ... just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens", but to say "Huh? Really? That's a pretty serious charge, can you please document the evidence?"

Because if we had, someone might have seen that the CIA had been tagging this "evidence" with the disclaimer that the source was highly unreliable and that basically the claim was bullshit.

Americans need to stop the trend of intellectual laziness, get up off their fat brains, and question the world around them. When you cede control over your mind in any measure to anyone in a position of authority, you make yourself into a slave. Britney's message is a horrible one that nobody should listen to.

Now in my article's title, I said that she may not necessarily be stupid. She could be greedy. Bush's tax cuts have given huge amounts of money back to the top 1% of Americans, of which Britney is undoubtedly a member. She's worth well over 200 Million dollars - Britney made $39 million in 20021 and additional tour revenues of $18.9 million2. She has had huge contracts with Pepsi, Toyota, McDonalds, and others. So she has quite a lot to gain from endorsing the Bush administration. Her six percent income tax cut from 39 to 33.x % would have amounted to almost 3.5 million in 2002. As you can see, greed could easily be a factor in her statements to Carlson.

Lastly, she could be afraid of the "Dixie Chicks Treatment"3. When the Dixie Chicks began to question the president's war in Iraq back in the beginning of the year, they were roundly vilified, painted as traitors, and the right attempted to instantiate a boycott. Sales of their CD's dropped viciously, and mainstream radio stations refused to play their singles. All of this was because they were asking legitimate questions that the Bush administration didn't want to answer and certainly didn't want the American public to think about. Frankly, this goes back to my initial statement that Americans need to ask questions. The Dixie Chicks were doing their civic and moral duty by asking these questions - intellectual laziness on the part of the public meant that as soon as the govurmint claimed the musicians were traitors, they accepted that characterization as fact and believed the same. Had they investigated exactly what was going on, we might not be trying to figure out how to pay for Bush's $87 Billion right now. Furthermore, the Dixie Chicks might not have had such a ridiculously hard time defending themselves against ludicrous, poisonous claims. I can certainly see how Britney might want to avoid similar treatment. Right now, she's still in the early phase of her career. It will take a long time for her to follow in Madonna's footsteps and transform herself from a material girl into an empress of a vast musical empire. (The Bush administration could never have gotten away with the kind of character assassination they aimed at the Dixie Chicks if they had tried it with Madonna. First of all, she's too smart, and has too much PR power, to let it get very far; secondly her fan base consists of older, wealthier, more powerful baby-boomers instead of screaming ex-mouseketeers.) Frankly I don't think that will happen - I don't think she's anywhere near as smart, talented, or brave as Madonna. In any case now is not the time for her to be exposing herself to that kind of attack.

I'd like to think all three are true, but it seems hard to believe that if she's calculating enough to support Bush because of his massive giveaway to the mega-rich she's also stupid enough to believe everything he says; if she's so stupid that she actually does, she's probably not scared about being painted a traitor because she probably doesn't understand how that would happen to her if for some reason she disagreed with Bush. You never know, though! This is America, the land of opportunity. If there is anywhere in the world where a greedy stupid skank could become popular and rich enough to appear on national network news and still retain the added incentive for obedience of fearing the political repercussions speaking against the president would bring about, it's the land of the free and the home of the brave.

- Jordan

3. For an excellent article about the Dixie Chicks' reaction to their being labeled traitors, read this article.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Democratic Presidential Primary Debate @ Congressional Black Caucus.

I watched the debate live on Fox News tonight ( an organization whose right-wing tendencies are outmatched only by their general ineptitude and un professionalism ) and came away with several impressions.

First of all, there was quite a lot of Bush bashing, as was probably inevitable. However, despite what the talking heads who were on within minutes of the debate's end would have viewers believe, there was also a lot of substantial discussion of issues. A lot of the candidates agreed on many issues, but there were several dissenting opinions voiced. Lieberman and Dean disagree on how to deal with the conflict in the Middle East, with Dean stating that the only way America can solve the situation is as an impartial negotiator whom both parties can trust. Lieberman responded by saying that America has a long history of mutual values and military interest with Israel, and that ignoring that is a mistake. He also claimed that Dean wants to remove most of Israel's military forces from the West Bank and effectively cede it to the Palestinians. While I am not familiar with Dean's policy on the area, a short-coming I intend to rectify, I agree with Lieberman that that issue should be up to the parties involved. However, that aside, the rest of what he said is baloney. Reality dictates that compromise is only achieved with honest negotiation, and Dean is correct in his assertion that if the Palestinians feel like they are being cheated, nothing will be accomplished. If we are to effect peace in the Middle East in a role as modifier between Israel and Palestine, we must be impartial.

Another divisive issue was whether or not to vote to approve President Bush's $87 Billion request to fund the reconstruction effort in Iraq. Every speaker covered their tracks by saying that we must support our troops, etc. etc. Most also said in one form or another that Bush must answer questions about where the money is going, what the long-term exit strategy is, and how his administration will be accountable for the sum. Of all of them, only senator Kerry had the balls to say that if those question go unanswered, he would vote no for approval of the money. To be fair, Rep. Dennis Kucinich said that he would vote no regardless, and that he wants for American troops and interest to completely abandon the area, and for the U.N. to take over for us. This man is an idiot. America must retain control of the security operations in Iraq; the U.N.'s record speaks to it's ineffectiveness in that arena throughout previous international incidents. Where the U.N. is needed is in the humanitarian and civil reconstruction efforts. We need manpower in Iraq to deal with those aspects of the war so that we can focus on what we do best - professional military security. I basically think Bush and Ashcroft have royally fucked us in Iraq, so we need to approve the money or lose any remnant of our credibility to (basically correct, if we were to leave) characterizations of America as a school-yard bully. But the questions must be asked, and the money must be spent wisely, or the next guy in office is going to spend four years cleaning up Bush's mess only for the right to shout about what a mess that president has made of Bush's 'glorious vision of freedom in Iraq' or some other such ridiculous dogmatic blithering.

That was about the only time during the debate that I felt Kerry made a legitimate advance in his cause and differentiated himself from the competition.

The two most charismatic speakers, with whom I agreed about most of what was said beneath the Bush-bashing rhetoric, were Dean and Sharpton. ( Don't get me wrong, Bush deserves every lick he takes. The state of American politics, however, is in sad shape all around, and politicians need to elevate the tone of their campaigning. While splatter-free politics are a pipe-dream, I try to ignore as much of it as I can.) I felt the strongest response to Sharpton when, during the frequent obnoxious interruption of Joe Lieberman, he basically told the rogue elements in the audience that tonight was a historical moment in black politics, that they were tarnishing both it and the respect due the CBC, and to shut the hell up and let the man speak. In general I felt a strong response to Dean, who reminds me of Clinton without the moral ambiguity; he is charismatic, well spoken, intelligent, and direct. Of all the candidates, he was the only one who did not exceed his allotted time on every question, often getting his message out consicely and stopping short because he needed say no more.

To a lesser degree, N. Carolina Senator John Edwards also had a good presence on the stage, spoke well, and seemed charming. But with the exception of a rather impassioned stance on education (which I approved of most heartily), he came across to me as rather bland, unable to say anything the others hadn't already. Also he several times lost his composure chuckling at something Sharpton said; while I too was chuckling, and rather liked him for having a sense of humor, it did nothing for me politically.

However of all the politicians on the stage, I felt the one with the best message, the least show-boating, and the most compassionate demeanor, was former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. Braun is a quiet woman, which is unfortunate because in this political climate her message will not be heard as well as those who can raise the money and rail the pulpit. But everything she said on stage tonight clicked with me. She made a lot of sense in her points, and frankly I kept wishing the panel would ask her more questions. In her closing argument this evening, she said that 60 years ago a great president said "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself"; she then added that the Bush administration has "pandered to fear". I have heard nothing that better characterizes how I feel about the Bush presidency's policies while in office.

In her recent address to the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus, she said this:

We here have dedicated ourselves to the right of our daughters and nieces - indeed, all our children - no matter what their color, sexual orientation, religion, or heritage, to serve in whatever capacity their God given talent and energy will allow. Progress for all Americans will come when a true meritocracy can emerge in which gender, race, nor privilege will not limit human potential.

If I were a registered democrat, I would be damn proud to vote for this woman.

- Jordan, from the heart.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Update: No I was not.

- Jordan
Followup 3: A friend just advised me to disconnect my computer immediately from the Internet. It seems that, at least with respect to my very real need to stop posting in order to avoid a deluge of hatemail from persons in possesion of a uterus worldwide, I was right.

- Jordan
Followup 2: I am now growing scared of how wrong I am. I cannot seem to stop myself from posting. My mom will probably call me to tell me how wrong it was of me to joke about such a serious issue in a public forum. Feminists across the nation will be lining up to explain in detail why I am a moron. Dear God, somebody stop me!

- Jordan
Followup: With regards to the last part of the previous post, at the very least I'm sure Stacy and Erin will have vocal opinions about why I'm wrong for not including them.

S&E: I love you too! (Note to men: This will be regarded as a poor attempt to save, and I will have been wrong to post it.)

- Jordan
Men: in case you didn't know, you are always wrong. (See comments on post below). That being said, if you make a comment about one woman, or a group of women, another woman you know will take it as a personal attack, and you will still be wrong. Even though you were making an off-the-cuff remark, you were wrong to make that remark. I guarantee you I'm wrong for posting this.

L&J: I love you! (Note to men: somehow even here I will turn out to be wrong.)

- Jordan

Friday, September 05, 2003

I joined the downtown YMCA, which is about 2 blocks from my apartment. The coolest thing about it is that MWF they have rock climing on 6 30 foot walls, and 3 inclined free-form boulders. I am so addicted to this sport. For one thing, I love climbing. For another, it gets my hard racing (cardio) and strengthens my muscles at the same time. I also met a bunch of cool people in the climbing room, and spent about 2 hours there this afternoon.

The gym is very nice, lots of new equipment and headphone jacks so you can watch CNN, ESPN, A&E, or CNBC. There's also lots of cute girls there but most of them are WMI chicks (local university) and most of them seem like high-maintenance women, which I'm not into right now.

My Aunt Chickie is getting me a ticket to Rosh Hashana (jewish new year, for the non-tribals) at the Temple and has also promised to send me the phone number of a young lady who is active in local theater. I am determined not to wait 2 years before meeting Lee, or her equivalent here in the mid-west, and thereby joining the theater group and making friends. There's no time like the present! I really ought to disconnect my cable though....

My cousin Annie had to go to the emergency room last night. A few months ago she was on chemotherapy and last night part of the catheter port in her arm broke off and passed into her lung. They had to take her in immediately, but fortunately she has recovered and is resting in her apartment, Mom and Dad in situ.

On other medical fronts, Ben's father is doing just fine; he was supposed to have a stroke, but did not, and is grouchy and surly ( a good sign, according to BLR.)

Love to all! - Jordi Out.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

I spent last night cruising around downtown milwaukee with Ben Riggs. It was good to see a familiar face, plus he bought me a beer and a frozen custard (which to me is the same as good ice cream, but he insists there is a difference.) We discussed some of his plans, which include a lot of writing and a day-job translating arabic. I am looking forward to spending the next couple weeks getting all the gossip that I missed over the summer.

In other news, I found this highly amsuing:

The US Army - which partly sponsors the show's makers, the New York-based Children's Television Workshop - certainly loves Sesame Street. Especially its saccharine theme music about everything being "A-OK".

Iraqi prisoners were treated to repeated playings of the ditty at ear-splitting volume by US psychological operations officers intent on encouraging their captives to submit to questioning.

So there ya go.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to possess common sense.
Stupid thief steals crime-tracking GPS device.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Take a moment to pray for Ben's dad, who is the hospital for major surgery.