Monday, June 30, 2008


K has a friend who's a big fan of faddish, pseudo-sciencey "cleanse" diets. Something like "I drink only grapefruit juice mixed with honey mixed with chili powder for a week. On day 4 of the cleanse, midichloreans scour out your colon and you gain x-ray vision."

I usually refrain from comment. If you wanna eat only arugula, whey and turnip green smoothies for a week, go for it.

We were with her on Sunday, and seems she's resumed smoking, ostensibly justified or excusable because she's about to do another of her crazy diets.

And this is the core of my problem with the "cleanse" idea in so much new age bullshit: It sells the gullible the possibility of truly reversing the damage they've done to their bodies.

It's like the myth of negative calories: "I can have a piece of cheesecake and 4 beers with my deep fried dinner, as long as I wash it all down with Diet Coke." Or, "Snackwells are fat free, so I can eat a whole box and lose weight."

Total bullshit, yet many people live as if it's true, even though they know otherwise. And it's the same with this "cleanse" crap. There may be antiquarks, but there is no anti-nicotine. The DNA in your lung cells, previously subjected to the mutative effects of carcinogens, will not, in the presence of carrot juice and curry powder, re-write itself to its original sequence. Drinking fruit juice for a week will not undo drinking gin for a year.

It's amazing what people will believe, when they want it to be true.

Religion scores more "inspired violence" points

This time it's the fringe Jews. Good job, guys.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My new belgian beer

Is awesome.

It shall be "Wit Supremacy".

That is all.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Another PR

Cracked my college PR in 10K today. Went 36:38.5 (1:49.9/ 500m). I had a good day on the erg yesterday, and knew I was primed to put up a great number. So I ate well and slept well and hydrated and decided to go for it. I had hoped to just break the prior record, but as I got into the last 1500 meters, realized I could break the 36:40 mark. I paced the piece very well, and managed to sprint hard in the last minute.

I have a team test on Tuesday, which I'm not too worried about. I'm thinking of going after my 20 minute and 2000m bests, soon.

My training hasn't been that intense. A lot of aerobic volume, which seems to be helping. It's actually a lot easier than the way I used to train on the erg. It all seems to be paying off.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More pandering

Obama is probably politically smart enough to be saying what he's saying. Just be teflon and you beat McCain. Don't give them any easy issues till November.

The problem is, folks like me who were sick of the populist pandering from folks like Edwards & Clinton found in Obama someone willing to speak truth to power. Seems that's true, unless the power is the unwashed American masses. In which case he goes all blue collar meat head and endorses the death penalty.

If he doesn't, of course, the Republicans can semi-legitimately say "Obama loves baby rapers" and that sure won't win him the women's vote. I was just hoping for one of his clear explanations of why a subtle distinction is important. Something like:
Of course we all feel a natural desire to take swift and terrible vengeance on anyone who'd do something so awful to a child, especially if it were our own child. But this is why we have the rule of law in our country: To protect the weak from the powerful. And mobs of people out for revenge, out to do violence, are certainly powerful. Sometimes they're right, but sometimes they're wrong.

And this is why we have a system to dispense justice in fair, unbiased and systematic ways, in accordance with our laws. But sometimes this system can be wrong. There are many folks who have been on death row and then exonerated. We can't give them the years of their lives wrongfully taken away, but we can let them out. Citizens wrongly executed, however, can not be brought back. And because the system has the potential to wrongly convict, as long as the death penalty is legal, the system can wrongly kill. We have to be better than that, as a society.

I have no problem with tough sentences. I have no problem with no parole. I don't mind locking people up and throwing away the key. But because permitting any executions guarantees that we'll have at least some wrongful executions, I have to set aside my natural desire for revenge on those who harm the innocent and instead let my desire to protect the innocent guide me to make sure we as society are never guilty of the crime we wish to punish: harming the innocent.

I'm rapidly losing faith that we'll ever get leadership better than we deserve. Billy Joe six pack won't vote for anyone who seems smarter than he is. Because Billy Joe can be moved to believe that Obama really does love baby rapers, because he heard a smart person on the TV say it, politicians have to defend themselves against asinine arguments that play well on TV. And they play well because our nation of avid National Enquirer readers can't be bothered to have a shred of critical thinking skills. "Pass the Cheetos. Is America's Next Top Model on? Sex with babies? I'll watch that. Is that on the violence network?"

Is standing up against the death penalty that hard?

Someone beat me to it

Taking apart the gender pandering in some of Obama's recent remarks.

I've put the "77 cents on the dollar" myth on my short list of ideas to actively kill. I don't tolerate it when mentioned in any context, as silence is assent. As the author points out, the "women earn 77% of what men do" is a statistical illusion. Having spent quite a lot of time working with demographic data, I've seen where much of it comes from. A few seconds of thought about demographic reality sheds a lot of light.

Consider that women in the WWII and even boomer generation weren't encouraged to seek education to the same levels and in the same fields as men. WWII women with college education are rare. A boomer woman who was good at math was more likely to aspire to being a math teacher than a mechanical engineer. Yes, gender expectations at the time shaped some of these choices, but it's not evidence of modern day structural sexism that there are more male engineers and more female teachers. It documents the career choices of past generations. Engineers make more, and if more of them are males, males will earn more, when the salary data is viewed through the gender lens. Before one can say the gap is due to gender, one must elimanate the parts of the gap due to other factors. And the author of the article touches on this idea enough.

An issue rarely discussed is the risk-reward dilemma for men. Riskier work generally pays more. Underwater welders, garbage collectors, high iron workers have a higher risk of bodily harm than kindergarten teachers. And they make more. But the risk -reward trade off is gender blind, so why are underwater welders almost entirely male, and kindergarten teachers almost entirely female? Why aren't more women seeking the higher monetary rewards by taking on more hazardous work?

The short answer is because they don't have to. Men are sized up as potential mates largely on the basis of earning potential (provider status). If males want a mate, they have to earn. And women tend to judge this potential relative to their own. K has a friend who's stuck in this tragic paradox of her gender role programming: She earns a ton, and most of the men who make more than she does and are still single are total assholes. She can't bring herself to date any of the 99% of men who make less than she does, even if they're more likely to be, you know, not dicks.

Men suffer the flip side of this: Want to make a ton of money so you can get some love? Then shut off all your emotions and humanity and get ready for 90 hour weeks and lots of travel. It's the gift of the Magi: Sell your soul to get food for your soul, which you no longer have because you sold it. Thus K's friend's selection pool is full of emotionally atrophied insecure jerks. Who have used their assholitude and lack of sensitivity to make a ton of money. So they can get laid.

So even in younger generations, women, free to choose work that's both emotionally and financially rewarding, can make emotionally rewarding choices, like tracks and firms that offer better work-life balance in lieu of higher pay. Because they'll be using their sexual power to pull in extra money from a higher earning male. Men, on the other hand, as long as they're up against women's relative earnings mate selection heuristic, will have to continue to choose the more craptastic, higher paying work, if they want to get laid/ loved. The more women earn, the more men must earn in order to stay in the running for getting some. At least, as long as women care about what a guy makes.

So if women really want to see the earnings gap close, they need to start marrying men who do and always will earn less money than they do. As long as women marry for money, men will be under pressure to out earn women, and most of us will.

And if you don't believe me, just eaves drop on any conversation between two women about a new potential mate (male of potential romantic interest). Before they'll describe his looks or personality, they'll mention his occupation. One of the first three descriptive details will be one that signals his earning power. And maybe this is all fine and good, but we need to admit the true sources of income disparity. Fighting imaginary structural sexism is not how to get the greatest change in the 77 cent statistic, if that's the metric people really want to use to gauge structural sexism.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A new best

I set a new personal best for 1000m on the erg today. 3:09.7. I haven't gone that fast since 1999 when I wasn't really trying to put up a good score, just trying to keep the stroke rate above 30 in preparation for a 2000m test that mattered. I then went on to do my fastest 2K ever a few days later.

So now that I'm back there, it makes me want to try the 2k, even though my 2k time won't matter until February 2009. It would be gratifying to crack my record from 10 years ago.

I know everyone on every national team around the planet could put up a faster time than I just did, and I know there are guys on my own team who are faster than that who haven't posted their times, but it's nice to see that in the online rankings, this puts me in the top 10% for men under 40. I think it's safe to assume that the non-posters are evenly distributed, speed-wise, so I'm probably top 10%, even if everyone participated. Almost everyone with a faster time is much larger than I am, so it means I might still have the advantage on the water, when power to weight ratio matters.

It all bodes well. I still have a few months until Masters national in Long Beach, so to be where I'm at right now is very good.

Friday, June 20, 2008

When bad satire attacks

Found this theist apologist attempt at humorous rebuttal to the recent popular movement for atheists to "come out". The sarcasm actually highlights not the flaws in the atheist thinking but, ironically, the flaws in the apologism.

She starts off by wondering, tongue in cheek, why there are so few female atheists. The implication is that there's some special kind of truth to which female minds may have access, which male minds do not. She makes this point explicitly, later on:
"...across the world, in every religion and not just among the [believers], women are far more likely than men to keep [God's] institutions going strong — more likely to attend church (or whatever), more likely to pray, more likely to indoctrinate their spawn into the same rituals, and so blubbery on.

Now don’t You all think that’s an important Fact? And even more important, why do You think it is a fact? Because it seems to me that there can only be one of two explanations for this gender bender: either Females really are intellectually Deficient compared to Males; or, something about the way they live gives them ideas that men don’t have."
Now a classical 60's feminist might bristle at the implication that men and women are different at all (though we are) but most of us would find fault with the idea that women are less capable of thinking rationally and dispassionately, even if it's not always their default or preferred mode. Yet she then goes on to argue:
"Some of the [believers], for example, come to believe in [God] for one kind of family reason — say, because they love their husbands or wives too much to believe that death really cuts the two apart forever. Even more people — way more, from what this Former Christian has seen — are drawn to belief because they feel that way about their brats. They think in the craziest way that there’s something infinite about their love for their children, something that transcends these finite shackles of our Cells — and they infer from that powerful feeling that love really is stronger than Death, as their stupid old book says somewhere."
This boils down to arguing that love is wonderful, and we'd prefer it to be true that wonderful things last forever; therefore we'll believe what we have to in order to believe love lasts forever. Because something feels permanent, it is.

I hear Viagra can make some things feel permanent.

Ok, but seriously:

Granted, this is how many people come to "faith", and as Kierkegaard pointed out, one doesn't come to faith through reason, as that's not faith but knowledge. All faith is intrinsically irrational. Theists just seem not to see that this makes it self-evidently unsound thinking. It doesn't prove it wrong (I feel like the acceleration due to gravity on Earth is 9.8m/s/s...), just that it's not necessarily right. We don't think the dudes with tin foil hats who feel the CIA is trying to read their thoughts with spy satelites have actually hit on some kind of truth with their special feeling sense. Why should we pay any attention to folks who argue "I feel that love is permanent, ergo, it is. Also there is a heaven and a God and everything else required to make my special feeling last forever, because I want it to."?

She then goes on to imply that atheists believe what they do in order to be free of moral constraints. She's wrong on several levels here, but the most ironic is that her own argument provides a good counterpoint: She says believing in God (and an afterlife and a way for her feelings to live on forever) is comforting, or at least that, it would be emotionally terrible to think that she, and all her amazing feelings will poof out of existence when she dies. Which implies to me that Theism is actually the more emotionally convenient delusion. Most theists are willing to trade a lifetime of living by "the Rules" for a shot at continued existence. Knowing that it's all meaningless and that existence is temporary isn't the most cheery perspective. But it's true. I won't argue that one is more happy than the other, but she doesn't balance the equation right. One one hand, no right and wrong rules enforced by a supreme being, but no afterlife. On the other, rules, and an afterlife.

Atheists can and do have morals, of course, but I'll just set that aside for now.

Then there's the implication that atheists are somehow anti-family. Many of us are against filling the world up with more children than needed. And many of us think that non heterosexual folks should have the same rights as heterosexual folks to family formation. But it doesn't mean we think there's anything wrong with traditional families. We do cringe when folks think Jesus wants them to have 17 children. But if John and Suzy Normal want to crank out a couple of replacement copies, most atheists won't mind. So she's setting up a straw man.

She then even descends into some ID-infused thinking, though without the usual total failure to understand evolution:
"You see, it’s just very, very difficult for most mothers and fathers to look at their children and to understand as we Brights do that those creatures are randomly assembled confections of molecules and limbs that have been Adapting willy-nilly since the lungfish. That just isn’t how most people feel about their babies and children — ever."
Again with the whining that she doesn't want it to be true that we're not designed. Hell, I don't want it to be true that I'm not really the mutant Colossus from X-men. I mean, I so identify with his "sensitive boy on the inside, indestructible hard shell on the outside that sometimes cuts him off from other people" plight. But I'm not a superhero, and no one designed us. Both are inconsistent with the evidence to the contrary.

Yes, this is written in the National Review, but I continue to hope that there's something to be gained from listening to all perspectives, especially in the arenas of economics and public policy. The sooner the conservatives can jettison the religious right, the sooner they'll have their intellectual credibility restored. I'm just shocked that they'd print a piece that boils down to "My mommy love makes me believe in Jebus". They can do better. I hope.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

People insist he's not stupid

I can find little evidence to the contrary. He outright admits Guantanamo is unconstitutional, yet doesn't seem to understand that he's kind of made the other guy's point for him.

Disappointed with Obama

It's not unexpected, given how well BO has done without public funding, but the announcement today that he's going back on his promise to use public funds really disappoints me.

The argument, as I understand it, goes like this:
"Even if the Republicans agree to take public funding, they haven't agreed to shut down all 527 activity. I've already taken 527's off the table, while 527's are likely to be an asset to a party representing folks who have a lot of money to spend. Because there would be disparity if we took public funding (because the Republicans would have 527's and I wouldn't), I'm choosing to keep my advantage of private funding."

It's a cogent utilitarian argument: The ends justify the means, and since reneging will get me elected, while sticking to my word might give my opponent an advantage, I'm reneging.

This is not what I voted for. I voted for principle over expediency. I'm really disappointed, and I'm not sure what to do about it yet.

The fact is that public funding would have helped McCain. I'm pretty sure he's short of $80M right now. Barack could have used the 527 condition to accept the public funding: Both parties will officially and jointly condemn all 527-generated political ads and activity, and publicly promise to disavow and condemn any and all communications arising from them. In return, both agree to take only public funds, and the campaign becomes a contest of ideas, not media budgets.

It's not that you win, it's how you win that matters. I may have to declare myself done contributing to the campaign over this move.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Al Gore sez:

"Barack Obama's got the balls to lead America. I know, I felt them. Like this. With my hand."

Must be stopped

No whining, America

Friday, June 13, 2008

Game Over, Exxon?

There's got to be a catch... If not, I need to buy stock immediately.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

OMFG, the irony

The happy owner of a Hummer H2:

Michael Biggerstaff.

The author either made up this source, and has a great sense of humor, or has no sense of irony whatsoever.

I love the Daily Show

Good to end the electoral college system

Of course, those who fear the tyranny of coastal liberals, the majority may have objections, but this makes a ton of sense to me, and the "goes into effect when 270 electoral states have bought in" part makes great sense: only goes into effect when enough have signed on to make it effective so no cost to signing on before others do. It does feel a bit unfair to states that like the old system, but what can they do?

It does mean that country-ass folk won't ever see a presidential candidate again. Top 50 US metro areas contain well over half the US population.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Earth: Still 6000 years old?

This is some amazing science: Apply constant selective pressure to a population of bacteria, and take a sample of them every 10,000 generations and freeze it and see what happens over time. Do this from 1988 to now.

First off, this is exactly why I'm not in scientific research. I do not have the patience to stick with the precise tedium of lab science for long periods of time. It takes a special kind of patience/ OCD to do this. I am not that guy. I appreciate and respect those who do have it. Without them, humans would still be banging rocks together and believing in magic. Well, batting .500 is still very good. Good job, scientists.

Second, as noted in the comments, the genetic sequencing technology we have today is off the charts better than anything existed back when Dr. Lenski started. It may be luck, or it may be thinking some very long thoughts, or serendipity, but the analysis he's going to be able to do wasn't possible when he started. That takes a special kind of scientific mind.

The two changes observed in the genes/ phenotypes of the e. coli make sense: If you only get one, small dose of glucose a day to live on, you can either
  1. Adapt to take in as much of it as possible as fast as possible and use it, then sort of hibernate until your next dose. Basically, eat fast when there's food, then manage well when there's not.
  2. Learn to eat something else.
I have no idea how the "Intelligent" design types can possibly reconcile this with their world views. The guy created evolution in the lab and archived the organisms as they evolved.

Science: It works, bitches.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's enough to make me want to avoid a Democrat controlled Congress

I already laid out why the "windfall" tax is a bad idea. Thank goodness there are some economically reasonable folks in the Senate who will smack down populist pandering. I'm disappointed that Obama has endorsed this windfall tax. It's dumb. And I'm afraid what would have happened had there been more Democrats. Why can't we get a Democrat for both civil and economic liberty? I guess that's the Libertarians, but they've been taken over by cabin dwelling second amendment nut survivalist types, and continue to propose reverting to isolationism and the barter system.

The petroleum companies have made their investment decisions and built their operations to be profitable when oil is a lot less expensive than $100/ barrel. I've heard $60. It might be even lower. So when oil is $130, they're wildly profitable. This isn't because they're evil, it's because they planned for the worst and got the best. Giant profits attract competition, which drives prices down and makes energy sources that were less economically viable more so. So if we want to see more refining capacity, and a more diverse set of potential energy suppliers, we need prices to stay high.

Who's to blame for the price spike? We are. We're the inelastic demand: As prices rise, we barely reduce our consumption, providing little disincentive to raise prices. If everyone started riding bikes and taking transit and carpooling when gas rose a nickel (which has happened this time, to some extent), we'd not see prices as they are. But most of us have carried on, and just complained more.

If government wants to intervene in the market to help out, do something to buoy the prices of gas guzzling second hand cars. Folks are going to realize that vehicles apt for crossing the Sahara or an amphibious assault are overkill for life in the paved and manicured suburbs and start selling their Land Rovers and Navigators for more reasonable, less ego maniacal options. And no one will want to buy them. Which will make it harder for folks to switch, and extend the time it takes for us to get to more efficient infrastructure.

So give people an outside option, much like CA does for gross polluters: We'll give you $1000 for any car that fails emissions which you choose to junk. Same thing on a national scale: We'll give you $1000 for any car whose factory spec says it gets less than... 15MPG city? Treat the disease, not the symptom. The disease is our wasteful energy infrastructure, the symptom is high fuel prices. Help us change infrastructure, and the prices and economic hardship will sort themselves out.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Crazy Hippies

Went to the Haight Street Fair on Sunday with K and a few of her friends, though we quickly got separated from her friends once on the street, and it turned into me & K.

Much of what I saw there was within the realm of the expected. A lot of Obama buttons, stickers, and voter registration. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence working on the petition to re-name the sewage treatment plant for W. Attire from goth to hippie to weird. Great T-shirts, one of which illustrated the difference between good bush, and bad Bush.

Also ran into this:

Recognized this group from Burning Man 2006. They're Christians in disguise as spiritual hippies. They do all kinds of "readings". One of the folks in our camp at Burning Man came back from seeing them so enthused, that K and I had to check it out. I knew how this stuff usually works: Folks usually go in looking to hear something, and will give subtle cues to the "reader" to get to hear what they want. So I consciously chose to go in and try to give them little to go on about me, and to try to use an understanding of their methods to intentionally misdirect.

It worked. I got the guy to go from asserting that I was "very outgoing and adventurous" to "quiet and reserved" in about 3 sentences. At the end there was some craptastic pseudo faith healing laying on of hands stuff with him and some other guy that I went along with. The "energy" you're supposed to feel is actually them subtly pushing on you from time to time. I wasn't fooled. I think they knew it, too.

I was amused to see them at Haight Street. I'm actually fine with it. If you want to reach out to the heathens, doing so by approaching them on their level is much better than doing so by picketing with signs telling us all we're going to their imaginary bad place for living contrary to the rules from their imaginary friend.

I was also a bit surprised to see this:

In case you can't read the marker on that box, those are bundles of cookies being sold for $5 each, or 5 for $20. And they were being verbally marketed as "Magic Cookies". And they were slightly green. For sale, on the street, next to the array of "alternative" patches, etc. I was just surprised at how brazen this was, but the proprietor was a verging on toothless 60-something with Jerry Garcia style gray hair and beard, green tinted peace sign glasses, and attire that said "I live on a commune in Humbolt County". So it wasn't a shock.

I suppose pot is effectively legal in SF now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I am not sorry about this at all.

The Hummer commercials' subliminal implication was always "Hummer: As if you're the only person on the whole planet". Americans are rejecting that "go it alone, fuck internationalism, screw consensus" spirit of the W years, which is baked into the Hummer brand. Also, Americans have figured out that MPG is correlated with penis size.

Just demonstrates how things Move On would like to see come about will happen as long as fuel prices stay high. Unless Move On wants folks to be able to afford to drive a Hummer to the grocery store.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Today I transferred from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter the beer I brewed last weekend with my good friend and training/ brewing partner. We did batches in parallel last time, finding it takes as much effort to brew two batches together on the same day as to do them separately on our own.

This time we both chose to work with wheat beers. I haven't made a wheat since I lived in Massachusetts, so it has to have been at least 8 or 9 years.

My partner did a semi-traditional honey wheat. He used the wheat yeast I used when I made my wheats back in Boston. It produces super powerful esters. The banana-like ones dominate the nose, but there are so many others in the mix, it's hard to pull apart the components of the aroma chaos that's assaulting your senses.

I went for a double white. I enjoy Belgian wit beers, and I enjoy barley wines. I figured, why not go after something that's the best of both worlds? A high original gravity Belgian wit style? So I used a Belgian yeast, though not my first choice, but an adequate second, and coriander and orange and a mega dose of wheat malt and some ultra light caramel malts.

When we transferred them today, we got our first whiffs of how we've done.

Both smell amazing. Both yeasts generate some cool esters, and the nose on these beers is unreal.

I have no idea how wine makers can wait years to taste and learn from their efforts. I can barely wait the two weeks to bottle these, and then the additional 10 days or so for them to fully carbonate. This will be a beer I hold onto, I think. If it turns out well, it'll give me the guts to go for a true barley wine. The Hercules Strong Ale from Boston Beer works and the double IPA from 21st amendment in SF are among my favorites. The Triple Dipsea from Marin Brewing Company is also amazing.

The color of my beer, of course is far from right for a wit. It's more amber, but I really don't care about color. If it tastes amazing, it could be green.

The trouble, of course, is in the name. It's a double wit, or "white". And it's a borderline barley wine, which calls for a somewhat over the top name. Will everyone get it if I call it "White Supremacy"?