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This is Why I'll Miss Journalism in Print

Jan. 26th, 2009 | 08:41 am

Anyone who knows anything about guitars will cringe at this:

Williams already designs a clothing line and said she also plays a baby-blue Gibson Stratocaster guitar—favoring “power-chord punk rock” like Green Day.

On an unrelated topic, here are some exciting consumer products coming out this year: 
  • Ford Corvettes
  • Windows 3000, by Apple
  • Several new Trappistes ales from Anheuser-Busch
  • The first of a new series of romance novels by Thomas Pynchon
  • Oh, and a Fender Les Paul guitar

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Putting the Logic into Astrological

Dec. 3rd, 2008 | 01:30 pm

Few things annoy me more than religion and other types of superstition. 

Astrology, for example.

This just appeared via Yahoo:

A September 2008 study of over 115,000 car insurance claims by Accident Exchange, a British accident management company, analyzed car accident rates by astrological sign. And sorry, Gemini, but your sign tops the list as the most likely to be involved in an accident. The next two most likely signs to crash are Taurus and Aries. Interesting data since that means drivers most likely to get in accidents are those born between March and June. Scorpions and Sagittarians were ranked the least likely to get in an accident.
But look at this, also via yahoo, from Reuters in 2007:

The study, which looked at 100,000 North American drivers' records from the past six years, puts Libras (born September 23-October 22) followed by Aquarians (January 20-February 18) as the worst offenders for tickets and accidents

Leos (July 23-August 22) and then Geminis (May 21-June 20) were found to be the best overall.

I just debunked astrology for the zillionth time.  Must be because I'm a Leo.

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Master Debaters

Oct. 3rd, 2008 | 09:42 am

I found the Veep debates uninformative, boring, and laced with cynicism.

I was disappointed with Biden, whom I really liked during the primaries.  I didn't feel that his answers were as clear as they could be.  He also stumbled a few times on words ("characr -- char -- chara -- characterize"), but it was probably harmless.

I can't stand Palin, but I understand that she has some appeal for people.  Every other word or group of words was "Maverick," "(bi/non)partisan," "hockey mom," or "up there in Alaska."

If you didn't notice, Palin responded to one of the mortgage questions by talking entirely about energy.

For Biden, the word of the night was "fundamental."   His  "Bridge to Nowhere" jab was forced and seemed mean-spirited.  I don't think that was helpful for him.  I still think he's a decent guy, and a strong VP candidate, but he didn't seem quite as strong as he did in the primaries. 


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Log -- Installing xubuntu on G3 powerbook pismo

May. 3rd, 2008 | 01:26 pm

# don't ask why
.. CD boots fine
..using "alterntive install CD" because of memory limitations.
..found wireless card, but could not auto-configure w DHCP
..manual config of wireless card failed
..partitioning (entire 40 GB)
..installing files (fingers crossed)
..base system installed ok, now selecting/installing software.
..CD-ROM is going nutso -- sounds like it's about to bust a nut
..CD install complete, rebooting into xubuntu
..couple hours fiddling with wireless packages and settings..
..had to extract firmware from broadcam driver.  It was an .exe self-extracter file so I had to 1) dl the file in windows (parallels) on my macbook; 2) copy the extracted files into my public folder on MacOS; 3) set up file sharing; 4) grab the files via ftp over a x-over cable; 5) use fwextract to extract the firmware from the windows drivers file. 
..various ready-to-use scripts for broadcom cards don't work...
..maybe I have to manually set the speed to 11 mb/s?
..after inserting an iwconfig line to set the rate to 11mb/s, i try one of the scripts again..
..I remove the cat5 cable (which was running from the powerbook to the macbook, using the macbook as a bridge) and try yahoo.com wirelessly
.... success!

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Feb. 22nd, 2008 | 02:44 pm

Some MENSA guy has a pretty crappy top ten smartest TV shows list.

I dunno if they're the smartest ever, but here's a list of my top ten favorite TV shows.  I think I like smartish entertainment, FWIW.  They are in the order in which I thought of them.

1. The Wonder Years
2. Kids in the Hall
3. The Wire
4. Sports Night
5. The Simpsons
6. South Park
7. Curb Your Enthusiasm
8. Seinfeld
9. X-Files
10. Loony Tunes

I'm probably forgetting one here.  If so, I'd probably take off Sports Night and/or Seinfeld.  Sports Night was a really good show, but didn't stay on the air long enough to achieve greatness.  Seinfeld, on the other hand, stayed on a couple years too long.  Curb made me realize how much better Seinfeld could have been.

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Walking Into Fights

Nov. 16th, 2007 | 11:53 pm

Pre-scriptum: I posted this post post-midnight.

I collided with someone who was about to fight another guy tonight.  Apparently, the guy I hit had stolen someone's parking spot.   It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer gets into an argument with someone over whether you can go straight into a parking spot if someone else is trying to back into it.  

A general policy of mine is to try to never behave like any of the characters from Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Larry David is the worst.  He always does the wrong thing.  But the awesome part of it is that he's always right.  So you can be technically right and do the wrong thing at the same time.  I call this the Unity of Opposites. 

We had a guest speaker today in criminal law.  He was a psychiatrist who evaluates defendants and gives his opinion on whether they should be not guilty by reason of insanity.  This is our final topic in the course, and probably the most interesting.  I'm generally skeptical of psychiatry (and for different reasons, talk therapy), but nothing compares to the criminal justice system when it comes to senseless approaches to mental illness.  

I'm usually intrigued by theories of any sort, even when I think they're crackpot theories.  I enjoy the process of trying to understand how other people think.  I think this is why mental illness is so interesting to me.  I'm fascinated, for example, by the logic of paranoid people.   I have my own crackpot theory about how some paranoid people think: it's as if their reasoning skills are intact, but their filtering abilities are diminished.  Like, they believe anything that gets into their brain.  If they can think it, they'll believe it.  And if they believe it, they can string it together with other things that they believe (possibly in a coherent way) and create a paranoid theory.  This is different from psychosis, where people have lost their ability to reason as well as their ability to filter. 

It's complete bullshit, of course, but so is any other explanation of mental illness that comes from our supermonkey brains.  The problem behind mental illness and psychology and pretty much everything is that the monkey-minded thinking that we use on a regular basis cannot keep up with or comprehend the complexity that we've created for ourselves.  In this sense, even the healthiest among us are living in a delusion, thinking that they've got it pretty much figured out.   It's another Unity of Opposites: simplicity and complexity.  It's amazing that the two can coexist in harmony in so many contexts.  But when you put badly deluded monkey brains in control of armies and economies, and charge them with the duty to balance an infinite number of variables, the results tend to be catastrophic. 

Perhaps our most versatile weapon against illness is the placebo.  The placebo is capsulized faith.  It's a Jesus.  Like Jesus, it works quite well, even though it's fake.  Placebo-like tools exist outside the realm of medicine.  War is a placebo, albeit a nasty one.  Iraq is an obvious example.  But what about "better" wars? Certainly, World War II defeated the Nazis, but did it really end the depression?  Yes, it created jobs and sparked the economy.  But so could have another placebo, if people believed in it. 

What if we all decided that the most important thing in the world was to stop using fossil fuels within ten years.   If everyone believed it.  Placebo effect.   I believe in belief, even though there is nothing to believe in.  Another Unity of Opposites.

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Free Health Care is for the Birds

Nov. 11th, 2007 | 08:51 pm

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The Losers' Rule

Nov. 5th, 2007 | 10:02 pm

Notwithstanding Richard Nixon and Lyndon Larouche, it seems like an unwritten rule that if you lose a presidential general election, you can't run again. E.g. Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Bush the Elder, Dole, Gore, Kerry. And Nixon doesn't count because of the Rule of Nixon (aka the Nixon Axiom, or "Nixiom"). And Larouche doesn't count because of his quasi-divine status. Am I forgetting any others?

Anyways, does the rule apply to vice presidents who lose in the general election? Can you name any recent major party presidential nominees who had previously lost on the quayleside of a presidential general election? Off the top of my head, I can't. And I can't even think of any VP losers who went on to run for president, except John Edwards.

Oh wait, I guess Mondale lost as VP and went on to lose as president, too. But he had one winning ticket in his belt already, so maybe they cancelled each other out.

I don't think we like losers in this country. On the other hand, we like a good comeback. But it's got to be a good comeback, and I'm not sure Edwards has what it takes. Gore might, but he's not running, because he follows the Losers' Rule.

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The Sirens of Halloween; Lyndon Larouche; the God Gene

Oct. 31st, 2007 | 11:17 am

I haven't really liked Halloween since I was a kid.  It was fun back then.  It was a little scary, we got to dress up, and we got to go out around the neighborhood and see other kids.  That was fun.  But even though it was all in fun, I half-believed that there was a paranormal aspect to Halloween. 

Now, it's all about partying.  At least around here.  Last year, in the Castro, nine people got shot on Halloween.  People have been stabbed.  I heard the air raid signs going off yesterday while I was on the phone with Mr. The cutup.  He heard them too.  They were testing them out for Halloween. 

In addition to the air raid sirens, there was an earthquake yesterday, which reminded me of something: the end of the world is coming!  The good thing is that the end of the world will erase my debt.  The bad thing is that the postal service will be done with.  The good thing is that The Postal Service will be done with.

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Jul. 12th, 2007 | 10:54 am

From a comment on a post at Ezra Klein's blog:

Yes, this is how it works. I think everybody has a story like this. Two of mine:

1. When my twins were born, the insurance company denied ALL charges related to the birth of the second child, reasoning that her birth was "incidental" to the first birth. The doctor ended up just eating this.

2. When those twins needed (very expensive) RSV shots (to immunize them against RSV), the friendly insurancy lady on the phone explained that RSV shots did not fall under the (generous) "immunization" coverage, because immunizations are limited to shots given to prevent future diseases, not to treat existing illnesses. [pause, pause]. "But my children do not have RSV. These shots are to prevent that." [pause, pause]. "Let me get my supervisor."

Again, the bottom line is: the business model is to deny, deny, deny, and let the little guy try to fight for what they can get.

Oh yeah, I saw Sicko recently.  Pretty good.  Here are some of my health care stories.  To preface, if you don't know me by now, you will never ever know me, and so I'll tell you that I'm a pretty healthy guy all-in-all.

1. The Deep Cleaning.  I went to a dentist in 2003 for my first check-up in about five years.  Stupid me for not going to the dentist, I know.  I had one cavity and they told me I needed to get a "deep cleaning."  They told me my insurance would pay 50%.  So I scheduled an appointment for this and it cost $1,600.  Then, my insurance said no way, and I got stuck with 100% of the bill.  Recently, I went to a different dentist and got the same treatment for free as part of my regular check-up. 

2. Uninsured Days.  While insured in 2002-2003, I went to the doctor several times about my stomach problems.  I was never diagnosed with anything, just given some drugs that didn't do any good and sometimes made me vomit.  When I was traveling in Europe in late '03, I had let my insurance lapse.  I felt great, by the way, the entire time I was traveling.   A while after returning home, I decided to purchase my own health insurance.  Blue Cross flat out denied coverage because of my pre-existing stomach problems.  Kaiser originally denied, then finally allowed coverage but said they wouldn't cover anything related to my stomach problems. 

3. Any period of being uninsured can make it extremely difficult to get insurance in the future.  A friend of mine took anti-depressants for a while when she was insured -- her doctor ordered her to take them as a preventative measure while she was on Acutane.   Her insurance lapsed, and when she tried to purchase her own, she was denied by everyone for pre-existing depression, for which she was never diagnosed.  I don't know how that turned out for her.  But she's doing well now.

4. Foreign Drugs.  I and some of my friends have purchased prescription drugs from Thailand, Mexico, etc. for a variety of reasons.  First, we can get them without going to the doctor.  The doctor costs money, but more importantly, anything that occurs in the doctor's office can go on *your permanent record*.  This is one of the most fucked up things about health care right now.  You are essentially discouraged from going to the doctor because doing so marks you as unhealthy.

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