Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My imaginary friend says I should deny your civil rights

I regret not having gotten more deeply involved in this sooner, but it looks like the Band of Anachronist Religious Kooks for Ignorance, Not God, and Malicious Aggressive Defamation (B.A.R.K.I.N.G. M.A.D) have gotten well organized to try to amend CA's constitution to specifically take away a civil right from a specific group of people. Specifically, they want to prevent folks who'd like to marry someone of the same sex from doing so.

Seems the usual suspects (Catholics, Evangelical Christians) and particularly Mormons have gotten involved. In the article, the Mormons feel particularly singled out, but they must be bad at marketing math: If a group makes up 2% of the population and 40%-70% of the financial power, you go after them.

So I sent the No on 8 folks some money. I hope it's not too little too late. Because of where I live, and the scant mainstream media I consume, I hadn't heard enough of the Yes on 8 ads to realize they had a meaningful presence.

Then when I was in Sacramento this weekend, I saw them. The usual Children of the Corn looking blonde well groomed white people with Yes on 8 signs on a busy road. As I drove by, I gave them the finger. 30 years from now, they'll be the white people with the racist signs opposing racially integrated schools in the 1960's.

I've been so focused on the national election, I hadn't focused enough on this.

I don't really know anyone who's going to vote Yes on 8, so I'm not sure how far my own personal outreach will work, but I'm happy to do what I can to shoot down this attempt to legalize bigotry. Consider sending them one day's worth of personal luxury (Starbucks? Wine? Driving instead of public transit) to shut this down.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why I'm not a research scientist

I, like many dorky boys, while growing up envisioned myself a brilliant scientist, discovering things that changed the world. In high school, I thought I'd be a genetic engineer. Because the world needs more glow in the dark fish.

And then I got to college. Summer term, molecular biology. The entire summer's worth of lab sessions was one long experiment. Using enzymes to put a key piece of DNA into a plasmid, getting the plasmid into the bacteria, growing the bacteria on anti-biotic laced media that would kill all but those who had the desired gene. Harvesting the bacteria, lysing the cells, putting them in a centrifuge to condense the DNA down to a pinhead sized granule.

And then losing that granule on my lab bench some place, because I'm not so skillful with a pipette.

Fuck science.

I have great appreciation for those with the patience to do it. I am not one of them.

I read this today, and it reminded me of much of my undergrad lab experience.

CS is the right choice.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Which one of your children would you save first?

"There's a fire in your house, and you have three children. You probably don't have time to save them all. Please tell us the order in which you'd rescue your children, and why."

Rather ass-tastic question, yes?

And maybe the debate questions last night weren't Brokaw's choices, but if they were, he's got a lot to answer for. I found this one not too dissimilar from the one above:

"There are new economic realities out there that everyone in this hall and across this country understands that there are going to have to be some choices made. Health policies, energy policies, and entitlement reform, what are going to be your priorities in what order? Which of those will be your highest priority your first year in office and which will follow in sequence?"

The artificial prioritization task makes this sound like it's written by psychology Ph. D. for a matchmaking personality test on eHarmony. "You said energy matters most. Therefore you're compatible with meek Asian women. Here are 5 of them, very eager to hear form you!"

The real limiting factor, which the question half alludes to, is spending. One can't spend unlimited amounts on everything. Yet even asking about spending priorities doesn't get at the issue: Some things are more expensive than others. One can spend more on a college education for one's children than one spends on food, but it doesn't mean you think it's more important for the kids to be educated than fed.

I think the more instructive question is not what the priorities would be, but how the candidates would prioritize. Process, not outcomes. Have the candidates talk through the thinking behind their decisions.

There were plenty of these shallow, simplistic artificial choice questions last night. Is Russia bad or good? Should green energy investment be centralized or decentralized? This may be how idiot America sees the world, through the Hollywood lens of archetypal protagonist and antagonist. So maybe most of America was at home saying "Good question, Tom!" Not me.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Those activist judges

With all their pesky, activist decisions, which I hate so much. And the decisions that really annoy me are...


Allow me to name a few decisions I dislike, Sarah, without any research? How about Bush v. Gore? How about the famous U. Michigan Law case that allowed consideration of race as a factor in admissions (I'm fine with socio-economic affirmative action, not race-based). How about the DC hand gun ban getting over turned?

Now allow me to answer for you, Sarah. You should probably be upset that the court said the Guantanamo detainees actually have rights. You should probably also oppose the U.Mich law decision, too.

Then there were all those cases where flag burning is legal, and sodomy is legal, and school prayer is not. I figured you'd get those, too. Guess not.

But good job.