Monday, June 23, 2008

Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad...

George Carlin died.
Here are some quotes.  I replaced any of the foul language with a number because he would have been pissed off by that which is just the way he liked it.

The Rational Moderate

Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.

A lot of people try to get out of jury duty by lying. You don't have to lie; tell the judge the truth. Tell him you'd make a terrific juror because you can spot guilty people [clicks his tounge] just like that!

Now here's another example of overprotection. Did you ever notice on the TV news, every time some guy with an AK-47 strolls onto a schoolyard and kills three or four kids and a couple of teachers, the next day, the next day, the school is overrun with counselors and psychiatrists and grief counselors and trauma therapists trying to help the children cope? [#1], when I was in school, someone came to our school and killed three or four of us, we went right on with our arithmetic. 35 classmates minus 4 equals 31. We were tough. We were tough.

Here's a bumper sticker I'd like to see: "We are the proud parents of a child whose self esteem is sufficient that he doesnt need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car."

This conversation is bound to turn up. Two guys in a street meet each other and one of them says, "hey, did you hear? Phil Davis died". "Phil Davis? I just saw him yesterday." "Yeah, didn't help. He died anyway. Apparently, the simple act of you seeing him did not slow down his cancer. In fact, it may have made it more aggressive. You know, you could be the cause for Phil's Death, how, do you live with yourself?"

I love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.

Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.

Conservatives say if you don't give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they've lost all incentive because we've given them too much money.

In America, anyone can become president. That's the problem.

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.

The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post "Thou shalt not steal", "Thou shalt not commit adultery" and "Thou shalt not lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

I worry about my judgment when anything I believe in or do regularly begins to be accepted by the American public.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Better Fake Diamonds

I read an article several years ago in Wired about the advent of artificial diamonds and the possibilities of their use. It's exciting to see that this avenue of research hasn't been crushed. The has posted an article about the new strides in this process. But, even more important (in my view) is the take on the real diamond industry and the true scarcity and trumped up value of diamonds that should really give you pause about selling those futures on tulips. I like this quote from the article:

Natural diamonds aren't particularly rare. In 2006, more than 75,000 pounds were produced worldwide. A diamond is a precious commodity because everyone thinks it's a precious commodity, the geological equivalent of a bouquet of red roses, elegant and alluring, a symbol of romance, but ultimately pretty ordinary.

I find it ridiculous the amount of money and energy spent on this rock as decoration when it is plentiful and can be used for so much more. 

The Rational Moderate

Friday, June 13, 2008

What's Happening

So, I have a great idea for a movie. Why doesn't someone remake Hitchcock's The Birds but without the birds? Oh someone did? You mean The Happening isn't a cool update to that classic 70's sitcom What's Happening with Rerun et al.? It sure as hell should have been.

Seriously, it is The Birds without the pesky flying things. And that would be fine if it wasn't so dull and so pointless and so not even interesting to look at. But most importantly for the theme of this blog, it's anti-science. 

Throughout the film is the general premise that science can't answer everything. And that is true depending on the area you are investigating. For example, science can't really help us out with logical arguments. We use those for science, not the other way around. But the problem is that in this film science apparently can't answer questions about natural events. You know, stuff that happens in nature. You know, the stuff that science actually looks at and deals with all the time.

Whalberg's character is a science teacher who, while discussing the mystery of the disappearing bees, is happy with a student's response that some things are just an act of nature and cannot be explained. This pretty much cements him as one of the worst science teachers ever. It couldn't be worse if on the chalkboard he had written "Next Class: The Great Ideas of I.D."

If you can't explain a natural event with science then you don't just toss up your hands and say, "Oh well, guess I'll go mow the lawn." You do some research and you work on figuring it out. A science teacher should be encouraging students to study things we don't know about, but not from the viewpoint that we can never figure it out so don't bother. M. Night's past movies have always had some pseudo-science in them, and that's fine. But when he starts just out and out mishandling science, that's a crime against his audiences intelligence. 

I won't get into how badly M. Night bungles evolution or neuroscience. I won't get into how bad the special effects were that garnered him the coveted "R" rating. I'll just leave it at this: if you are a skeptic, a scientist, or a friend of them, skip this one.

The Rational Moderate

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Video Game Voters

Now here is an organization I can get behind. It scares me that people who have no understanding of the medium (or the difference between the content and the medium) try to craft legislation about it. I'm not signed up yet, but I will definitely be checking them out.

The Rational Moderate

Sunday, June 8, 2008

If Only...

Reading through this fake Google news manages to warm the heart and make you very sad all at the same time. I especially love the entertainment section.

The Rational Moderate

Friday, June 6, 2008

Free Rice!!!

Well, not for you.

Check out this website that is able to donate rice through the UN World Hunger Program based on how many vocabulary words you can correctly define. Ok, not really based on that. More likely it's based on the idea that the more time you spend defining words the more time you spend looking at advertising on that page which is really paying for the free rice, but still...

My top ranking is a 41. Yours?

The Rational Moderate

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Shoot the Photographers

I like Bruce Schneier's take on the war on photographers that I've been blogging about. I think the part of comparing our strategies on combating terrorists to what we think would make a good movie or TV show is spot on. It doesn't seem like the people in charge of security in this country are spending as much time on reasonable solutions to security issues as they are dusting off their old, yellowed, unused action movie scripts they wrote in college, turning to the hack climax, and then retyping that as a memo on how to fight terrorists. For example, the idea that an amount of some dangerous liquid that they hope to confiscate before you board a plane could actually be stable enough to carry in your water bottle can only come from folks who really worry about what the diabolical mind of Lex Luthor will come up with this week. I got into an argument about this with a hotel clerk a few months back who, when I asked him to name the liquid that has this magical property of being easily transportable and at the same time can cause serious damage, replied, "C4." 

At least I feel like I won that argument.

The Rational Moderate

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Not Politicians, Campaigners

Normally I think that while politicians of today stink, they aren't really any different from politicians of any age where there was some type of voting system. That's why there is a question mark after reason in this blog's logo. But I'm starting to question that position. 

Scott McClellan was on Jon Stewart Monday night and said something that struck a nerve with me about the Bush's administration campaigning  for war. This got me thinking about the type of leaders we really are getting in the US in this day and age that really is different from the politicians we had in the past. Todays politicians are better campaigners. They've been studying campaigning a lot harder and in a lot more detail within the last decade(s) than any politicians before. They've been studying how people think, what words sway them, what items of clothing will make a difference... all in an attempt to get their vote in a much more systematic and scientific way than ever before. And from this what do we end up with? Not people in charge who are necessarily capable of leading, but rather people in charge who know how to run a campaign better than others. 

When in office, what do you think they will do? Will they suddenly become something else? Of course not. They will use the same skills that they have mastered that got them elected. This is why there was a campaign to get the US behind Bush's war in Iraq by only giving information to the public that strengthened their case while deliberately leaving out information that would weaken it. That is exactly what you do when running for office. And the politicians who keep winning will only get better and better at it.

The Rational Moderate

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wow Moments in Teaching

I like this op-ed from Brain Greene. This paragraph in particular really strikes me:

...many students I’ve spoken to have little sense of the big questions those (scientific) technical details collectively try to answer: Where did the universe come from? How did life originate? How does the brain give rise to consciousness? Like a music curriculum that requires its students to practice scales while rarely if ever inspiring them by playing the great masterpieces, this way of teaching science squanders the chance to make students sit up in their chairs and say, “Wow, that’s science?”

I'm always amazed at this same issue when it comes to other important areas of study, such as mathematics. Students are often taught math in a very dry and boring way even if they have a lively teacher. I always thought it would be better to teach math as a history of discovery. Why do we have calculus? What led to its creation? What problems did those who created it need to solve and why? 

If the field of study doesn't have any Wow moments that can be shared with students, then find another discipline. At the same time, students should really try to not be too cynical with what they are being presented. A typical example I've had with students is describing humans walking on the moon for the first time. Neither myself nor the majority of the students I have taught were alive when Neil Armstrong took that step (and botched his line) and so we have a tendency to not realize how amazing that really was because it has always been a part of our lives. But, as one of my professors was fond of saying, other animals look at the moon and think, "Look at that bright light." We look at the moon and think, "That's a place where we can go." How cool is that?

The Rational Moderate