Thursday, April 30, 2009

I was never crazy about Dana Gould's comedy. I didn't particularly dislike it, but his dysfunctional family humor never really resonated with me (I did, however, really enjoy his cyclops impression).

Gould has been a guest on Bill Maher's show recently, and he has really impressed me there. He seems well-read, thoughtful, and funny. Here are two quotes from last week's show that I really liked:

On torture: "There are arguments that it makes us a safer country. There are no arguments that say it makes us a better country."

"The real NRA nut says, 'If the government can take our guns, then after that they can come and take our freedoms.' But what happened with the Patriot Act is the government said, 'No no no -keep the guns: just give us the freedoms.' And they said, 'We get to keep the guns!' If you just wrap the request in a flag, they'll line up to surrender the freedoms. They just really want the guns so they can protect the guns."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I got a reprieve. I initially thought that an abstract for a conference was due today, but then it got extended to May 10th. Thank goodness.

I'm about to go out drinking (sans the drinking part) with some graduating students.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

OMG! The Dems are going to have a 60 vote majority!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sorry I missed posting on Friday. I'm sure you all were all up in arms.

The This American Life should was good, but not great. The highlight was Mike Birbiglia. Joss Whedon was fun to see, but not a knockout.

This is the last week of classes, with finals being next week. I am pretty much set, aside from creating and grading the final exams. Now, if I could only get a new piece of research ready by Wednesday...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tonight: This American Life Live!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Short post: I'm flying to Milwaukee for the day to look at architecture. This is because I am cultured.

Happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I heard a story on This American Life about a high school football coach who convinced half of his parents to cheer for the opposing team one game. The opposing consisted of kids who were in trouble with the law. People generally seem to think that this coach did something noble, and I tend to agree. This got me thinking about Alfie Kohn's thoughts about competition. Basically, Kohn doesn't like it. Maybe we all don't like it, too, if we think that this coach was doing something noble. People like it when you help out the opposing team, such as by carrying an injured player around for her home run trot.

Also, Kohn points out the following: if a person were described as "competitive," would that make you to be their friend more or less? Most people I have spoken to said "less." Further evidence that Kohn is onto something.

Still, as a person who grew up with basketball, I am having a tough time coming to terms that competition might not be the best thing. There are obviously degrees of competition, and I am trying to sort out if my level of competitiveness (play basketball every other day, don't really care if I win...much) is healthy. Perhaps "none" is the only healthy level, and perhaps some is okay. I am not sure. I'll have to re-read Kohn's book.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Skye and I planted a couple of trees yesterday. We now have a Black Hills Spruce and a Bali cherry tree in our yard.

We have a lot of yard, and I am trying to come up with ways of getting rid of some of the grass. I Googled around for ideas, and came across this article, entitled Lawns do a World of Good. Seriously, what a crappy article. First, the content is provided by Scotts Miracle-Gro. I now appreciate that Scotts thinks that lawns do a world of good - I wouldn't have guess it. I'm also a little surprised that Scotts would recommend to "1. Feed regularly with products made for lawns." Again, I didn't know how they felt on the "products made for lawns issue."

Apart from the self-serving nature of this article, it still sucks (I will never watch WKLY again, since they posted it). They argue "your well-cared for lawn removes and stores twice the amount of carbon from the air in a year than a tree can in 10." This is useful information if you were planning on tearing up your entire lawn and replacing it with one single tree. I was actually considering that - having a lawn full of dirt, only with a cherry tree sitting in the middle of it. They can't come up with a reasonable comparison in their favor? Something like "a lawn removes more carbon dioxide than the equivalent in native flowers?"

Oh, also: "Did you know that summertime air temperatures above lawns can be up to 30 degrees cooler than above paved areas?" So if you were planning on ripping out your lawn and paving your entire yard, just be prepared to deal with the heat. I'm just sayin'.

Mano posted to a great interview from The Daily Show. I think that Elizabeth Warren should become Secretary of the Treasury.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I need a supercomputer. I am running through a lot of possibilities for my research (I am searching for a counterexample), and my desktop just isn't cutting it.

Mano is convincing me that we are all screwed (except for Goldman Sachs). This sucks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My representative sucks eggs hard. She just makes things. She is crazy, and most of my neighbors voted for her. This is a big drawback to where I am living.

We saw Jodi Cobb speak on the current slave trade yesterday. It is pretty awful - there are more slaves in the world now than there were in 1859. Much of what we buy was produced by slave trade (but she didn't know how to tell, although she did photograph some Gucci handbags that were made by slaves). This is yet another reason to buy used, buy local.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I put up bird feeders yesterday. I'm looking forward to seeing birds.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I read Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman this weekend. It was good. It was about North Dakota, and it was clearly written by Klosterman. It had the additional benefit of having a character named "Ainge" who wore number 44 on the football team.

I also read In Defense of Food. It makes me look forward to gardening.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why I am not happy with President Obama

So I am thrilled that Barack Obama is president, but I don't like a good chunk of what he is doing right now. First, Afghanistan. Do we really need more troops there? When was the last time someone successfully did anything militarily in Afghanistan? What would we hope to accomplish? There doesn't seem to be a lot of national unity, since everyone in the news says that Afghanistan is very "tribal." Would this make it a difficult country to unite?

Also, isn't this the time to start withdrawing troops? Politically, there would be no better time than now. We have a severe economic crisis, and we could use the money.

Speaking of economic crises, isn't President Obama's plan basically the same as President Bush's? Aren't both basically "give a lot of money to big banks?" Perhaps there is no other game in town, and it is the right thing to do (as with Afghanistan - I don't claim to be right about these items. They are merely opinions). However, it seems like there could be something better to do with all of the money than to give it to the banks (and cut taxes - I'm not crazy about your ideas, either, Republicans). How about: we fund projects directly? A little WPA for MMX? How about: we nationalize the banks? It would require a lot of man power, and a lot of people would lose a lot of money (honestly, I don't know if I have stocks in banks right now. I probably do, since I favor, for now, index funds). How about: we use the money to restructure health care, creating a nationalize health care program? We could simultaneously create a much, much more efficient health care system while cutting future costs (basically - this would give us a chance to reconsider the Medicare/Medicaid entitlements).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I completely forgot to congratulate Vermont! Way to legalize gay marriage, and legislatively, too! For those of you keeping track, that's another Republican governor. So four of the five states that have ever legalized gay marriage have been Republican.

Speaking of gay marriage, check out this quote from "Morality in Media" president Bob Peters, who just said that the gay marriage movement is part of a larger sexual revolution:

"It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality."

Well, duh. If you define morality to be "only sex between a married man and woman," this is a tautology. You haven't said anything, Bob.

We got the Litter Kwitter yesterday. I can't wait until Oliva is toilet trained. She went to the bathroom in it once last night, but she has definitely been holding it a lot longer than she normally does. I feel bad for her, but I also want a toilet trained cat. I am hoping I don't find any accidents when I get home this evening.

I drove my electric car to the far campus today. There weren't any problems, and I don't expect any on the way home from the near campus. Of course, I took advantage of opportunity charging twice, so I still don't know if I can get there and back on one charge from home. I am skeptical, since it is really hilly between the near campus and far campus.

I'm still in love with my EV. I have been a little less conservative with it, and that makes driving a little more fun. In fact, I was driving home on the short highway I drive on on the way back home from work. I have been passed a lot on this stretch in the past (to be fair, I get passed even when I am driving my internal combustion engine, too). So yesterday I was waiting at the stoplight right before the highway, and there was a car right in back of me. I took off, and rapidly went through the gears to get up to a high speed. Not only was the car not passing me, but I was actually gaining distance on him. I started feeling really proud, and I started daydreaming about blogging about the experience (I know, I know...). Then, the car sped up and zipped right past me like I was standing still. It was apparently just waiting for oncoming traffic to thin so it could pass safely.

My EV: it is underpowered, but I love it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How to Fix My Jumpshot

I lost my iPod Shuffle today. I have no idea how it happened. I went to the locker room to change for basketball, and I was listening to it when I walked in. Jim was there, so I turned it off and talked to him. We got dressed, and then we went up and played basketball. We came back down, and it wasn't in my locker. Jim said he saw me put it in my locker, so I don't know. Maybe it is stuck in some corner of my backpack that I couldn't reach.

It is also time for my semi-annual post about flaws in the mechanics of my jump shot. I think I fixed it today. Here are the keys:

  1. Don't jump much. This keeps my body under control.
  2. Hold the ball slightly farther to the right than I feel comfortable. This causes my forearm to be completely vertical, and allows me to be a "two-eyed shooter" (thanks to Pete Maravich for that tip).
  3. (this is the one I was missing) Cock the hell out of your shooting wrist. This will give you enough power so that you can simply shoot with your legs and your wrist, so you don't need to use your arm.

Hopefully I just look this post up the next time I start playing basketball after a long break.

Here are the three funniest people alive today (unscripted category):

  1. Paula Poundstone
  2. Adam Carolla
  3. Norm McDonald

Paula cleaned up in last week's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me. She is hilarious.

In outrage news: a Brazilian man raped his nine-year old stepdaughter and got her pregnant with twins. Her doctors decided that it isn't safe for nine-year olds to have twins, so they aborted the babies with the mother's consent. The kicker: the Catholic church excommunicated the mother and the doctors for performing an abortion (the child was spared because of her age). Do you know what punishment the man got? None. (Kind of like: What is the highest position a woman can hold in the Catholic church? "Nun.").

Mano points out that the man probably would have been in more trouble with the church if he had worn a condom while raping his step-daughter. Something seems backwards here, but maybe it is just me.

Speaking of Mano, check out The Daily Show video at the end of Mano's post here. Fast forward to the 4:15 mark for some great hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle. This is really The Daily Show at its best.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Late Night Grading=Early Morning Weblogging

Want to become a billionaire? Up your chances by dropping out of college... This is one of the dumber things I've read recently. It goes on to say that 20% of billionaires (polled in their unscientific survey) did not graduate from college. I'm just doing this in my head, but I calculate that 80% of billionaires did graduate from college. It would seem like the more accurate headline would be: Want to become a billionaire? Up your chances by graduating from college.

Also, I'd like to see evidence that math prowess is genetic. I could believe it, but they provided zero evidence. Speaking of college education, I think that is the single most important thing a person should take from college: the habit of providing evidence for arguments.

Congratulations to Tsjaz. Also, to UNC. I'm going to miss those guys - it seems like they have been around forever. Now let's see them all become mediocre pros.

I've graded one exam, although I haven't even started on their homework. That can be done tomorrow. Then maybe I can grade tomorrow's new exams on Wednesday, and then grade the Wednesday take-home exams on Thursday morning (day off! Five day weekend! I love working at a Catholic college...when it isn't Labor Day or MLK Day).

Monday, April 06, 2009

Congrats to Tsjaz, who has UNC to root for tonight. I will be doing the same, and my brackets won't be a total disappointment if UNC pulls it out.

Skye and I finished our taxes yesterday, which I think is a record for "latest day finishing taxes" for both of us. I blame the marriage.

Dog survives, poor baby goats. I like these stories, but did the baby goats really need to die?

I am working on learning GAP; I have been a Magma guy until now, but I need to change (GAP is free; Magma isn't).

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hooray for Iowa! They legalized gay marriage! I'm awfully jealous - why didn't Minnesota do this first? C'mon - we're going to let IOWA beat us on this one?

Also, this is the first time that a state has legalized gay marriage under a Democratic government. I know the governors don't legalize gay marriage, but I still find it curious. Here is the roster:

  1. Massachusetts, under Mitt Romney (Republican)
  2. California, under Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican)
  3. Connecticut, under Jodi Rell (Republican)
  4. Iowa, under Chet Culver (Democrat)

I discovered this when arguing on Facebook with a ridiculous conservative who made some claim like "Wilson and Roosevelt were president when the US got into World Wars, and they were both Democrats. Therefore, Democrats get us into World vote for McCain." It wasn't that bad, but that was the spirit of it. My response was "Republican governors lead to gay marriage, so you should vote Democratic." He wasn't quite smart enough to see what I was trying to point out, even after I connected the dots for him.

I guess I need to have a new comeback for that now.

By the way, other states offer some sort of civil union-type thing, but not marriage. I'm not counting those.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I am finally getting around to backing up my home computer. More accurately, I am getting around to dumping all of the stuff that has been on my home computer for the past 6 (six!) years to my external hard drive. My puny 20 gig hard drive has been requesting extra space for a while now, and I am finally obliging.

We had a slight litter box issue today involving a change of food and a long-haired cat, but I trust that Skye will give a detailed account (check her Facebook page if she doesn't post to her weblog).

Yesterday was a bad day for universities: BYU accidentally emailed students everyone's GPAs, and UC-San Diego accidentally emailed acceptance letters to rejected students. As far as I can tell, neither had anything to do with April Fool's Day. (Sympleko contributed to this story).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My new charger arrived yesterday, and I installed it. Later, I will install it more carefully (tie downs and such), but I think that that it is okay for now. The only remaining project on the car is to get the hood open - being a car that is over 20 years old, it got stuck. It had nothing to do with the fact that it is an electric car.

We started watching Andy Richter Controls the Universe. It is an enjoyable show, although not as good as I remember it. I think that this is largely because television was going through a transition at that time. I think that Andy Richter was an awesome episodic show, but it isn't nearly as good as the serials that were starting to flourish at the time. I like the serials.