Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans and resident aliens!

Happy Thursday, everyone else on this side of the International Dateline!

Happy Friday, the rest of you lot!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/15/2011)

The brutal truth about Penn State.

Daddy put you in the top 1%.

World's Greatest Medical System: scorpion antivenin treatment that costs $500 in Mexico costs $62,000 in the USA.

Why Johnny can't search.

A message from God.

Rebecca Coriam: Lost at sea.

One might well surmise from his brilliantly brutal work that comic book genius Frank Miller is kind of a fascist dickwad. One would be right.

How the Yanks cocked up the cocker spaniel.

Coon-suit riot.

Women struggling to drink water.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

What Herman Cain's Libya confusion tells us about him

You should watch this video if you haven't yet:



Pretty embarrassing.

But here's what I think it means. During my long, long experience as a student and my much less extensive experience as a teacher, I found that there are three main reasons that students don't know something that they should. From watching politics for more than three decades, I've also found that the same three reasons apply when a politician hasn't mastered an issue.
  1. They studied it but they're too dumb to learn it. (This is actually pretty rare, in both students and politicians -- except governors from Texas, maybe.)
  2. They blew it off and didn't study. (This seemed to be Sarah Palin's usual problem. People were always talking about how dumb she is, but I think the real problem was that she simply didn't put in the necessary work to master the issues.)
  3. They studied it, but don't care about it, so they forgot it. (This was always my Achilles heel as a student, actually.)
So what happened to Cain? Well, I've never gotten the impression that Cain simply isn't very smart, the way I have with Perry, so that rules out number 1. And he didn't have that deer-in-the- headlights look that Palin used to get when someone would ask her a question about something she'd obviously never even heard of. (OMG! What the heck is the Bush Doctrine?) Cain had obviously been briefed on Libya, he'd gotten his talking points or whatever ready, but he simply couldn't remember them. That rules out number 2.

That's why I think number 3 is the reason. As noted here, "Research into the psychology of memory shows that intention to remember is a very minor factor in whether you remember something or not. Far more important than whether you want to remember something is how you think about the material when you encounter it."

And, tired, according to his campaign, and asked a vague, open-ended question that didn't give him any cues towards an answer, Cain simply failed to remember what he had studied.

What this suggests to me is that Cain doesn't really care what happened in Libya. The subject didn't engage him; it was just a bunch of talking points. He found it boring, and thus embarrassingly easy to forget. So, coming after his "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan" routine celebrating his ignorance of Uzbekistan, I think we can say with some confidence that Herman Cain 1) doesn't care much about foreign policy and 2) doesn't master issues that don't engage him. So now we know.

Of course, whether any of that matters to Republican primary voters is an open question. Ignorance of the rest of the world may be seen as a virtue rather than a flaw by most of them. Maybe they're satisfied just so long as America is killing foreigners somewhere. But I'd like to at least hope that to everyone else, ignorance isn't a virtue.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Beat kuri's quiz score: Professor or hobo?

Guess whether the person in the picture is a professor or a hobo. I only got 6/10, but then I've been away from academia for quite some time now (and from daily interaction with hobos for even longer).

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/6/2011)

There are 5,100 children in US foster homes because their parents have been deported.

CIA instructed not to kill quite so many innocent civilians.

This kind of thing is why people love the police.

Playing sports seems to make children smarter.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

A hilarious history of Mormonism.

Sounds like My Week with Marilyn might be pretty good.

Did you know that new British coins make up a puzzle picture? (I just found out here.)

Jesus vs. Dr. Who.

Hope it's not too late for some Halloween humor.

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My greatest moment in sports

My greatest moment in sports happened on my third day of fourth grade.

That was when I had to change schools to go into the TAG program or whatever they called it back then. It was my third school in three years. See, they'd made me skip second grade after they gave me an IQ test in first grade. It wasn't a problem academically -- the work was easy enough. But the neighborhood schools were so small that kindergarten through second grade was at one school (Barton), and third through sixth grades were at another (Chesterton). So not only did I have to leave my classmates behind, I had to move on to a different school from them.

But I made it through third grade at Chesterton OK. Well, sort of OK. They apparently had some sort of new curriculum there, where they didn't actually make the kids learn anything. I suppose the idea was that they'd let us learn anything we want, and eventually we'd learn everything. Or something. I don't know; I was in third grade. So mostly I just read science books all day. Every day. I knew a hella lot about prehistoric and modern animals by the end of the year, but I didn't know my times tables beyond maybe two times six.

Anyway, I start fourth grade at Chesterton, and not only are my friends from last year there, all my old friends from first grade at Barton are now at Chesterton for third grade themselves. And I meet them and play with them at recess and lunch. So, with my third grade friends and my first grade friends there, I'm telling myself that things are going to be pretty good this year. Then after two days, my parents out of the blue tell me that I'm supposed to change schools again. I'm supposed to go to Ross, where they have the "gifted program."

This is bad. I hate change of any kind. (Still do.) But now I'm supposed to go to my third school in three years, leaving the place I'm used to, my newer friends and my older, and go across town to a completely new place where I don't know anyone? No. No! I have a complete meltdown. I cry, I yell, I refuse. But they overrule me. I'm only eight years old, after all. I have to go to Ross.

So I do. It's my third day of fourth grade, my first day at Ross. I hate, hate, hate the idea of going there, but my parents drive me. When I get there, the teacher introduces me, and there's a familiar face. One boy, Tom, is the older brother of a kid I'd gone to first grade with, and I sort of know him. And that eases my mind a lot, just knowing anybody. And it turns out the brother I knew in first grade, David, goes there too, although he's a year behind me now. So I end up eating lunch with the two of them, and I feel a little better.

So anyway, I'm getting through the day, and it's not horrible or anything, but I don't want to be there. Then in the afternoon, it's time for PE. And for PE that day, we're going to play teamball. Teamball was the local (San Diego) version of dodgeball. It was a little different from the way most people play dodgeball now. First, we only used one ball, and we used a volleyball instead of those red rubber ones. Most importantly, once you got out, you stayed out. You still stood behind the endline and threw the ball at the people who were in, but you couldn't go back in if somebody caught the ball or whatever.

So anyway, we divide the class in half, which is about 15 people on a team, and start playing. And my team is getting crushed. Finally, I'm the only person left in on my team, but there's about 10 people left on the other team. Looks like Game Over.

But. We get one person out. And then another. And then I'm on fire. I'm catching almost every ball that gets thrown at me, and dodging the rest. My team and I are getting people out left and right. All of a sudden it's one against five instead of one against ten. And I go on catching, dodging, throwing. I'm the ace of all teamball players, and it's one against four, one against three, one against two. And we get one more player out.

So it's one against one, and the only kid still in on the other team is Tom, as it happens. It's just the two of us left. I catch another throw at me and I run up to the line and throw it at Tom. He tries to step away to dodge, but -- and this image is still frozen vividly in my mind 41 years later -- he can only get one leg out of the way, and the ball bounces off the heel of his trailing leg. He's out! We win!

And instantly I'm mobbed by my team. I'm in the center of 15 kids, all yelling and cheering and jumping up and down, and it's all for me. I'm the hero. I pretty much won the game single-handedly for my team. But more importantly -- to me, anyway -- I feel completely accepted at my new school.

There was nothing "official" about the game. No records were kept. The teams were improvised. Adult supervision was minimal. It was just a little 20-minute game of dodgeball played for fun by a bunch of little kids. I'm sure I'm the only one who remembered it even half a year later. But that moment when I was mobbed by my teammates was literally the happiest moment of my life to that point.

And it remains my greatest moment in sports.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Book of Mormon Zombies (Ch. 5)

Being the missing pages and/or sealed portion of the Book of Mormon...


Chapter 5. And it came to pass that I spake with him, that if he wouldst do what I say, we would spare his life, but otherwise we wouldst busteth a cap in his ass

(Compare with: 1 Nephi 4:20-38)

And after I put Laban's previously removed and not at all bloody garments upon mine own body, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban, where he keepeth his swag. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the homey of Laban, who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury.

And he supposed me to be his homey, Laban, for he beheld the previously removed and not at all bloody garments and also the sword girded about my loins, which, although I didn't mention it before, I had carefully cleaned so it wasn't all bloody either, and also I'd washed my face and hands so there was no blood spatter upon them.

And he spake strangely unto me concerning some garden tools and female dogs, saying that his homey, Laban, had been out by night among them.

And I spake unto him as if I had been Laban.

And I also spake unto him that I should carry the MP3s and movies, which were upon the disks of plastic, to my crew, who were without the walls.

And I also bade him that he should follow me.

And he, supposing that I spake of Laban's crew, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me.

And as we went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls, he spake unto me many times concerning the garden tools and female dogs, and showers of gold, and other matters that I understood not, though they caused strange feelings in my nether regions.

And it came to pass that when Laman saw me he was exceedingly frightened, and also Lemuel and Sam. And they fled from before my presence; for they supposed it was Laban, and that he had slain me and had sought to take away their lives also, and they didst runneth like hell, even though they outnumbered us three to two.

And it came to pass that I called after them, calling them fraidy cats, and they did hear me; wherefore they did cease to flee from my presence.

And it came to pass that they didst mock me again, saying things like "I can't believe you actually said 'fraidy cat,' you big dork."

And it came to pass that when the homey of Laban beheld my brethren he began to tremble, and was about to flee from before me and runneth like hell to the city of Jerusalem.

And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength from my concussion, therefore I did seize upon the homey of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.

And it came to pass that I spake with him, that if he wouldst do what I say, we would spare his life, but otherwise we wouldst busteth a cap in his ass.

And I spake unto him, that he need not fear; that he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us and join our crew.

And I also spake unto him, saying: "Surely the author hath commanded us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the author? Therefore, if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father thou shalt have place with our crew."

And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake, for the Stockholm syndrome was setting in. Now Zoram was the name of the homey; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father and join our crew. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth.

Now we were desirous that he should tarry with us for this cause, that the zombies might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us.

And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him, for we knew that the Stockholm syndrome had a firm hold on him.

And it came to pass that we took the disks of plastic and the homey of Laban, and departed into the wilderness, and journeyed unto the tent of our father.

(To be continued...)

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/2/2011)

Greatest country in the history of the world.

Greece explained.

Texas justice (I actually recommend not watching the video).

This kind of thing is why people hate the police.

Smorg's friendly but skeptical meetings with the Mormon missionaries continue.

The death of film.

Madonna used to be pretty interesting -- back when she was 20 years old.

How Axe's marketing worked too well and it became the preferred brand of pathetic losers.

Every sperm is sacred.

But does it contain any chiasmi?

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011