Archive for the ‘World’ Category

Blast Lab: High On Budget, Low On Science

March 20, 2008

Long time no write! I had to chime in on this, though. I’ve watched a couple episodes of Discovery Channel’s new show “Blast Lab”. The premise is that the four team members attempt to solve an engineering problem. Their problem, as the series’ name implies, almost always involved something exploding (or burning, crashing, etc.). Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Mythbusters, but a few things about this show bothered me.

They have too much money. I’ve hardly seen the crew do anything. Almost every experiment requires outside experts. They have a seemingly endless budget, which means all the attention is diverted to flashy explosions and not to the problems at hand.

There is too little science. I know a lot of people are critical of the science in Mythbusters, and thats good. It’s part of the scientific method. However, Smash Lab seems to more or less ignore the science all together. There’s hardly any quantitative data taken. If they repeat tests, or run controls, we never see it. On a recent episode, they tested Rhino Lining (a truck bed liner) as a way to bomb proof a building. It seemed able to maintain the structural integrity of the building during a nearby explosion, but no effort was taken to test the human element. On Mythbusters, I feel certain we would have had ballistics gel dummies and/or force sensors inside. In short, for all the cost and danger of the show, little to no usable data comes out of it.

They’re addressing problems that don’t exist or that they have no business addressing. Not sure how else to say that. Do we need rocket brakes for trailers? It doesn’t seem that way to me. Maybe just, you know, disk breaks like on every other vehicle?

Lets not forget, too, that the dialog is stilted and  that the cast has about as much personality and the chair I’m sitting on.

I still love you Kari Byron.


The Big Weekend

February 7, 2008

This is the last weekend before the launch of Step Lightly. I’m stoked, even though that means there is a good deal of editing in my near future.

I figured out what to Lent (love ya, Moi!): fried foods. Already, of course, there are problems. Or, at least, points of contention. Is Chinese food friend? Fried rice certainly sounds like it is, but wok fried is different then deep frying or pan frying, right? My roommate also swears that orange chicken must have been fried at some point (ie. deep fried and then cooked in the sauce), and he may have a point, which makes me sad. Is pan frying even comparable to deep frying?

I suppose I original was thinking of french fries and chicken tenders, not any food associated with hot oil in any way. Seriously, on campus options are dropping like flies here. Still, if the one is as bad as the other, then they should all get tossed out.

Until March 23rd.

So, if you want my initial thoughts on Lent, here you go: Why do Christians do this!?

Kidding. I’m stoked, even if it’s hard. Later days!

PS: How the hell does this idea allow me to still eat nasty greasy pizza? Phrasing is clearly important.

Two BoingBoingish Things

February 6, 2008

First off, a tear free onion. Not only am I deeply saddened at the notion of future generations not experiencing the simple joy of watching another person cry over a vegetable, but I’m pretty sure they’re trading something (taste, nutrition, etc) for this convenience. Honestly, people, just use a sharp knife and it’s not that bad. My main interest in the article, though, is the term “gene jockey.” Is this becoming common parlance for scientists doing genetic modification? Because that would be awesome. I’ll still stick with the heirloom veggies when I can though, thanks.

Second, ongoing reports that a fifth major undersea communications cable has been cut. This story just keeps getting more bizarre. Apparently, at least one was shut down, not cut, but the other four have been severed. I should make this clear: to my knowledge, it’s really hard to sever one (they’re buried and well insulated and such), and they’re also very hard to repair when damaged (since you have to , find, retrieve, patch, and rebury and sensitive fiber optic cable in deep water). Apparently, no one is crying “terrorism!” just yet, which strikes me as really strange for this administration (c’mon, blame Iran!). Officials don’t have any good theory right now though. BoingBoing readers have the answer: giant monster.

Time Marches On

February 6, 2008

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.


Actually, life is pretty good, when my roommate isn’t being a jerk in my dreams. Thats probably a little… weird.

Anyway, I’m sorry to say I don’t have anything that important to tell you today. I hope you all voted, and that we have good candidates to choose from this fall. It’s certainly an interesting election so far.

Random Thoughts

January 19, 2008

Sometimes, I look through the referral info for the site and really just want to spend all my time imagining what people are looking for when they find me. Someone Googled “Shakespeare wrote in spanish” and got to my page. I remember the post they probably found: I mentioned a thought experiment that suggested Shakespeare couldn’t have written in Spanish because English has a richer vocabulary (owing to it’s complex origins in several ancient tongues). Still, don’t you have to wonder, was that what they were looking for? Or maybe its some conspiracy theory that says the English altered historical documents to steal the great bard. Or that he led a double life, linguistically. Who knows?

Anyway, the overdue summary of my new years resolutions will be forthcoming! As well as my new goals for this year (even though that list isn’t quite done). For now, though, a show about WWI dogfighting gave me some new perspective on an old novel, so I am off to worry about that.

On Oppression Revisit

January 6, 2008

Quite a while ago, I wrote about racial oppression and the way that two different groups of people handled it. I came across that old post today, and it got me thinking; why was it that by embracing stereotypes we were able to take away their power? It seems like an important question, because removing the power of stereotypes is an important step in creating a society with real equality.

To illustrate my answer, I’ll use myself. I’m very straight, but by no means a real manly man. I hunt, like camping and the outdoors, but I’m a little geeky, shy, and I don’t think much of trying things like cooking and knitting. In Moi’s suite, I spent a lot of time with friends of hers who were gay, and as we got to be friends joking around about me being gay (or turning gay, or having casual gay sex, etc.) became common. I’m not saying that being gay is quite the same as being another stereotype, but I wasn’t any more then a certain free spirit was a “dirty Mexican.” Nor am I going to claim that I am “just that secure in my sexuality.” (What does that mean, anyway? I’ve said it once before and felt… deceitful. But I digress.)

I think the reason this never bothered me was exactly because of the experience I described in the original post: by laughing about the stereotypes, we identify them as distinct from ourselves. I could adopt the persona of my gay self, and it was obvious to everyone I was only kidding around, but when I dropped it, it was gone. I could go to bed at night with Moi knowing I had nothing to prove.

Maybe this all seems like more work then people think is fair, but I don’t think anything could be more difficult then being politically correct all the time. I suppose what we were doing was something like saying, “If I were really ______ (in my case, flamboyantly gay), I would look like this ______ (fabulous!). But I look like me. See the difference?”

The real advantage here was that it was never that painful or obvious. Can you imagine sensitivity training where people have to role play that conversation? (Okay, I can, actually, and let me say this: ouch.) We played that game a lot, but the rules were unspoken, and the result was that it never felt like politically correct race relations, otherwise known as work. It was just funny as hell, and when everyone gets to play, no one feels excluded, no one feels unwelcome.

Awesome Site

January 4, 2008

Thanks to the modern wonder that is Facebook, I discovered a new charity site which asks little more then your time and a little thinking. It’s called Free Rice, and you play it as a simple vocabulary game. For every answer you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice to help feed starving people through the UN. I was a little dubious at first (after all, you pay nothing) but then I noticed the small note at the bottom that the site’s single banner ad pays for the rice donations. Good enough for me.

You can learn some pretty sweet words, too.

So donate a little time and earn some rice!


December 23, 2007

Yay for the Lakota, apparently. I wish someone in the US government would actually take this seriously, but I doubt it. Maybe I should move. I think they are within their rights, which is pretty cool.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

December 2, 2007

I was looking at my bank account tonight, which is in shambles, and caught myself about to say the following:

“Man, I hate Christmas.”

That makes me feel terrible, really, because it isn’t true. I love Christmas, and I love getting things for my friends and family. I enjoy taking time every year to think about the people important to me and try to answer the question “what would make them happier?” and then doing or getting it. I like doing it so much that I’m often happy to do it any old time of the year if the moment is right. There are, however, a few things that do bother me about Christmas.

  • That it starts two weeks before Thanksgiving, ruining two holidays at once. I can’t enjoy Thanksgiving because there is Christmas music on the radio and I can’t enjoy Christmas because I’ve already been dealing with it for a month and a half and am tired of it.
  • That it takes over everything. Half of my favorite radio stations have switched to all Christmas music. If they loose me as a listener, it’s hardly my fault.
  • That it’s always about the goods. As I said, I love getting things for people, but I am just as happy to show my love doing something for someone if that is better. I know, I know, I will sound like a Grinch saying this, but it is the department stores who have told us that it’s the cost of a gift that shows you love them. I’d rather receive a gift someone got for free but that shows they thought about it then something huge, and I’m lucky to have people around me who are typically very thoughtful.

Speaking of which, I’ve been offering people the option this year of of giving to charity instead of giving to me. It’s not that I want to be all high and mighty; I had a few things I really wanted and I asked the right people for them. However, most of my friends have had trouble thinking of things to get me, and for good reason. I don’t have a lot I need at the moment. So I don’t want those people to feel like they have to find something (anything!) so they can give me a box, when the money would be better served going somewhere else. My mom and I are doing it in a big way, not sure about anyone else as of yet. And I’m giving gifts to everyone, so no worries people! Which brings us, conveniently, full circle.

Man, my bank account looks terrible.

Bad Pictures

November 20, 2007

I’m testing out the idea of a personal, pencil and paper journal, so expect posts to be erratic in the near future. More on that soon.

Tonight, as I was looking through Facebook, I realized something: most people take terrible pictures. Think about it, if someone you know takes pictures at a bar get together, what will they be of? I’d bet over ninety percent will be people, and only people. Closeups on faces, period.

Now, there are certainly some times when people pictures make sense. Proms, wedding, etc., need at least one set of good, full body pictures to demonstrate the beautiful attire of the occasion.

There are many cases, as well, where pictures of people with things make good sense. Vacation photos in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or grandma about to blow out the candles on her 100th birthday cake, absolutely. Gold.

However, stick a bunch of people in a room with nothing specific to celebrate and a couple cameras, and by and large you will get closeups of faces. Over and over again.

What do I think people should take pictures of? I don’t know. Wait for something exciting to happen. Take photos of the surroundings, maybe? The drinks? I just would like to avoid the following situation:

“Oh cool, photos, what are they of?”

“Here is Jess, and Steven, and Jess and Steve, and Chris, and Jess and Chris…”

Well, you get the idea.