Archive for March, 2009

Another Important Choice: Battles.

March 31, 2009 - 4:48 pm Comments Off

It’s activists versus government, round who cares! In this case, the government is Virginia governor Tim Kaine and the activists are pro-choice.

Tim Kaine, the Virginia governor and President Barack Obama’s hand-picked choice as the head of the Democratic National Committee, infuriated abortion-rights groups Monday by signing legislation that gives abortion foes a long-sought victory.

A long-sought victory? Could it be a state ban on late-term abortions? Tough laws about minor children and reporting requirements, or even a ban on abortions for minors? A counseling requirement before an abortion is performed? Restrictions on the morning-after pill?

Kaine brushed off intense lobbying by abortion rights supporters in Richmond to sign a bill that allows Virginia motorists to advertise their anti-abortion views by sporting “Choose Life” specialty license plates.

…Oh.

Gosh, the abortion foes must sure have their sights set low, lately.

The revenue from the specialty plates would go to crisis-pregnancy centers, which many abortion-rights backers believe proslyetize against abortion and encourage women to keep unwanted children.

Encouraging pregnant women not to have an abortion. How DREADFUL. They must be stopped immediately.

Now, in all fairness, crisis pregnancy centers do have their sleazy side- mostly in the realm of advertising themselves in misleading ways. But they also provide counseling and help arrange adoptions- and if you’re of that majority of the pro-choice camp that regards all abortions as bad things, but bad things that should remain legal, more adoptions of unwanted children is a good thing. Besides which, it’s not as if the regular kind of clinics that DO provide abortion don’t have their own sleazy side- both pro-life and anti-child-predator groups have been making a hobby of recording Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Federation clinic employees deliberately skirting statutory rape reporting laws. This is not a huge surprise on either side; both kinds of “clinics” would be likely to be staffed heavily with people on an ideological crusade, which makes bending or breaking rules and laws and ethics in its name a higher likelihood.

Thankfully for the consciences of everyone involved, nobody is forcing pro-choice taxpayers to pay for a cause they don’t support*- only the pro-life people who paid extra for the special license plate would be funding them under this particular piece of legislation. Hooray for free speech!

In Washington, NARAL/Pro-Choice America channeled more than 17,000 emails and 200 calls to the DNC urging Kaine to veto the bill.

“It is unfortunate that, even after receiving thousands of messages from Virginians and pro-choice activists across the country, Gov. Kaine has opted to sign a bill that advances a divisive political ideology at the expense of women’s health,” NARAL/Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan said in a statement.

Or not!

As a side note, I’m more than a little tired of hearing abortion equated with “women’s health”. While we can point to cases of outrageous idiocies like the current Pope’s condemnation of the nine-year-old rape victim’s abortion, which she would have died without, so far as I’m aware there is no place in these United States where a woman cannot have an abortion if her health is put at serious risk by the pregnancy. Women are, essentially, built to carry infants to term- and while there are plenty of potential risks associated with that, including mental health ones, the pro-lifers aren’t wrong about the health risks- including mental- involved with abortion, either.

Kaine defended the move by pointing out that Virginia has a “long-standing program” allowing customized license plates and said that if Planned Parenthood applied for a plate he would grant it.

“I sign this legislation today in keeping with the Commonwealth’s longtime practice of approving specialty plates with all manner of political and social messages,” Kaine said in a statement.

Apparently, it is not enough that you have your freedom of speech- for women to truly be free, other people have to lose theirs. Or at least I can think of no other reason for the furor.

Because it’s not as though a woman, pregnant and confused, could look at the array of messages, options, and facilities… and choose. Like she was a rational adult or something. That would just be nuts.

Let’s let Kaine have the parting shot:

“Furthermore, if Planned Parenthood—an organization that is already a recipient of state budget funds—or another similar organization ever chooses to seek a specialty license plate in Virginia, I believe the Constitution would require the state to approve that plate to protect against any viewpoint discrimination.”

*Pro-life taxpayers are out of luck on that score.

Quote of the Day

March 30, 2009 - 8:51 pm Comments Off

Presented without context. Courtesy of Holly at the (nsfw) Pervocracy:

“Filet? At the Chinese market they’ll sell you a whole one for like four bucks. I’m not shooting no damn filet.”

Skynet Incipient

March 29, 2009 - 7:53 pm Comments Off

We’ve got one robot that is capable of differentiating between its own mirror image and another robot that looks just like it and is imitating its movements…

And another robot that can create an internal model of itself and use that model to adapt to new situations, such as injury.

All joking aside, it’s interesting from the technological standpoint, but even moreso from the cognitive and philosophical standpoints. What’s awareness, what’s consciousness, and where are the lines between the two?

And more than that, is it a good idea to start testing early self-aware robots by “injuring” them? I’m just saying, learning to stab scientists in the balls is another adaptation for a self-modeling robot.

Commemorative Earth Hour Link

March 28, 2009 - 5:28 pm Comments Off

From last year’s Earth Hour: Punter vs. Earth, neighbor, pizza guy.

This carries a level IV drink warning. Seriously, if you have food or beverage, either put it aside or finish it before you read this, before you kill yourself choking.

(Do I even need to say it? I don’t hate the earth, but I really fucking hate sanctimonious do-nothing “I CAAAAAAAARE” stunts designed to stroke egos without actually accomplishing anything or requiring effort. Fuck Earth Hour right in the ear.)

Up In Smoke

March 27, 2009 - 12:14 pm Comments Off

“They had no good cigars there, my lord; and I left the place in disgust.”
–Alfred Lord Tennyson, returning from Venice

“If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven, I shall not go!”
‐‐ Mark Twain

In the interest of spreading quality vice, and my continuing efforts to be on a checklist with every department of our favorite government agency that should be a convenience store, I’d like to speak for a moment about one of life’s more pleasant indulgences, the cigar. Granted, prices on such luxuries are about to go through the roof thanks to our beloved nanny government reaching the conclusion that the best way to pay for the health care of other people’s kids is to tax the ever-loving holy shit out of a habit already in declining popularity (see more on this wonderful hopenchange here), but regardless of the established idiocy of government, cigars are still tasty and enjoyable. Besides, if they tax it too high we’ll just send Michael Phelps 90 miles south of Miami on a grocery run. Good luck catching that mule dolphin, coasties!

I’m not going to go into tremendous depth about much of anything here, so much as I intend to provide the general gist of things with broad strokes. Get two cigar nuts in a locked room with nothing else to talk about, and the 1911 vs. GLOCK debates that keep bouncing around the internet look downright friendly and about as tricky as 2+2 in comparison. I’m not going to do the Cigar Aficionado reviews with way too much complexity and so forth. I prefer to actually enjoy my smokes.

Now for the casual smoker, there isn’t too much to keep in mind. If you only get one or two every now and then, concerns like storage and aging are moot, so for that audience, only a few key points are necessary.

Starting with the basics, cigars are measured by length and ring gauge. One gauge is 1/64th of an inch in diameter, so a 64ga. cigar will be a rather large customer. There are roughly five thousand different names for the various size combinations, but the only one I’ve seen even remotely close to qualifying as “agreed upon” is the Robusto, which is 5″ long with a ring gauge of 50, and even that isn’t 100% ironclad. Of all the various petite robustos, torobustos, lonsdales, churchills, and so forth, the best bet is simply to get the smoke’s actual measurements. It’s sort of the same situation as with women and labels. One man’s “curvy” may be 36-24-36 while “voluptuous” starts around 42-32-40, while someone else might think voluptuous starts at 36-24-36. Just get the numbers, it’s less headache. If anybody gives you grief about this approach, just say something along the lines of “Well if you’re smoking that I’d want to add complexity to things too!” Or just punch him in the neck. Whatever works.

Now you’re probably thinking that the bigger the cigar, the bigger the punch. This is true after a fashion, but not a particularly linear fashion. Much as how coffee grown in different regions tastes different, or Scotch made in different areas of Scotland does, where the tobacco in your cigar was grown has as much of an impact on the capacity for making you woozy as the size of the thing overall does. Once, for instance, I smoked an 18″ long 72 ring gauge monster on a bet for laughs. Even though it took damn near seven hours to finish, I felt fine the whole way through (though the flavor by the end was akin to licking the local highway crew’s asphalt melting tank). Compare that baseball bat of a cigar to something like an Excalibur Royal Sterling, at a modest 6″ by 48ga, but packed full of Honduran tobacco, and I was on my ass and turning green before I was halfway finished. Tasty though. I can’t say what region of the world will be your particular quick trip to queasyville if you opt to try cigars, or if any region in particular will produce such a response, but it’s worth keeping in mind that size doesn’t always matter.

That said, a reasonably safe rule of them is that darker tobacco is stronger and has bigger flavors. Maduro wrappers usually bring bigger flavor than others. Usually, but not always. If you’re a casual smoker, just ask the tobacconist about potency. Speaking of the tobacconist, if you enjoy tobacco at all, this person should be one of your go-to resources. The casual stogie-puffer can walk in and say “I’m in the mood for something along these lines, in this price range” and any shopkeep worth a tin turd in a gold mine should be able to point you pretty accurately in the direction you’re looking for. If you’re buying a sampler online, my suggestion is to find someone who already indulges, and pick his or her brain. There are vast volumes dedicated to explaining and cataloging the various flavor profiles of the myriad tobacco combinations, and having someone with a touch of experience in the matter helps considerably.

Ok, so by hook or by crook you’ve now somehow wound up with a cigar, and wish to smoke it. First thing is you’ve got to open up the head (the round or pointy end what goes in your mouth). The two main schools of thought here are punching, in which a small sharpened metal cylinder is pushed through the cap to open a fairly narrow hole, or cutting, in which a blade – most often an opposing pair of blades called a guillotine cutter- slices through part of the cap. Punches usually leave smaller holes, which leads to a tighter draw and more concentrated flavor. Towards the end of the smoke there can be tar buildup around the hole, however. Cutters usually produce an easier draw, and don’t suffer the buildup problems as much. Plus, if you don’t open the cigar up enough on your first cut, you can cut a little deeper, but it’s largely a matter of preference. Most places, online as well as brick & mortar, will toss in an el cheapo cutter if you spend more than a few bucks. If you’re only buying one cigar for the evening, I’d be hard pressed to think of a shop that wouldn’t either cut it for you (to teach you how) or at least loan you a cutter for one snip. If you’re punching, it’s hard to screw up. If you’re cutting though, be careful. If you cut too far from the end of the cigar, you can clip past the little cap that keeps everything raveled up, and your cigar will start to unwind as you smoke, mostly by way of leaving flaps of the wrapper hanging in the breeze or stuck to your lips. The easiest way I’ve found to get a cut that’s consistantly deep enough without being too deep (most of the time – cigars vary, of course) is to open up the cutter and set it flat on a table or countertop. Stand the cigar on end in there, and just let the height of the blade(s) above the table measure for you. Don’t dally when making the cut, be quick and decisive about it. Now we’re ready to light.

Just so we’re all clear, you light the end you didn’t just cut. Don’t ask why I feel it necessary to point this out. Anyway, for one subject the “Hellboy” movie was realistic about, put down that Zippo, and step away from the stogie! Burning petroleum distilations will add flavors to the whole damn smoke, and they aren’t good. Likewise with paper matches, which have chemicals in them to modulate the burn rate. Wooden matches or butane lighters are your best bet (and the torch lighters are slightly superior to the dimestore Bics). Paper currency doesn’t bring anything tasty to the table, and besides, it burns poorly. Regardless of your flame choice, there are two main lines of thinking on lighting. One holds that so long as you aren’t polluting the cigar with a Zippo, it’s all good. Blaze it up with big flames like you see in the movies if that’s your thing. The other holds that doing it that way wrecks flavors and causes uneven burn rates, and all sorts of other badness (ok, mostly it just makes the cigar more likely to swell and crack), and that you should toast the foot (the end you didn’t cut) with your flame a bit away and alternate gentle flame application and blowing lightly on the foot until an even glow is achieved. There’s plenty of videos on Youtube, one even featuring Aria Giovanni and some horrible puns involving her main line of work. Once you get the thing lit, let the ash worry about itself. That’s not a cigarette, and you don’t need to tap it down constantly. Worry when it starts to threaten to fall off, with around an inch and a half or so hanging off the end.

One more thing some folks occasionally need telling: don’t inhale when you settle in to smoke. Some people grasp this intuitively. Others grasp it after prayer at the porcelain alter. Just throwing that out there in case you were headed to be in the second category.

Say, that was pretty tasty, wasn’t it? Now you’re thinking you might want to get a little humidor and keep a few on hand? One of those nice little mahogany-lookin’ desktop models? Well don’t. Since you’re thinking along those lines, you probably already realize that cigars need to stay in an environment around 65-70% relative humidity, and below 80 degrees Farhenheit. Those attractive looking desktop models generally don’t have a seal much tighter than your average screen door, so keeping even a small number of cigars in good shape becomes a damn difficult proposition. If you’re in this boat and you want one for show to have on your expansive desk when your enemies come to grovel before you, that’s all well and good, but for pete’s sake, don’t keep the things in there longer than you have to. Instead what you want is a short list of three inexpensive items. First, get an igloo cooler, or whatever the cheap off-brand at Wally World is this week. Next, pick up a digital hygrometer from Radio Shack. So far the running total is $35 if you get a small cooler that will hold maybe a single box of cigars. The only other thing you need is jar of humidor crystals. I’m pretty sure these are basically the same thing suburban housewives put in flower pots to keep the flowers fresh. Once doused with a shot of distilled water (distilled only, please – regular water will wreck the crystals, and the minerals and such in there will be bad for the cigars) in a humidor (or coolerdor), they release moisture into the air when the humidity falls below 70%, and to a degree absorb it when it’s above 70%. If you go this route and find your hygrometer regularly reporting much higher than 75% RH, there’s tinkering to be done, but I suspect if you’ve gone this far, the tinkering will be part of the appeal. It’s not too tricky.

So that’s the gist of it. If anything caught your eye and you’re looking for online sources, I’ve nothing but praise for JR Cigar, who have absolutely top notch customer service even though they operate at a scale that usually indicates “outsource that crap to India”, and Cigars International, with a great selection even though the “international” part isn’t inter with the nation most smokers would like it to be. Now everybody go string up their nearest congresscritter for levying taxes on this hobby at a level that makes the rates that turned Boston Harbor into the Bay of Caffeinated Fish seem downright modest, and celebrate with a nice big smoke.

Minor Update: I wanted this on the main post for those of you who don’t check comments. Sigivald inquired there whether Thompson Cigar was any good or not. The answer is a resounding and overwhelming NO!! Thompson Cigar is made of a marketing department and several large buckets of suck and fail. Once, I ordered one of their sampler packs since it was full of things I knew I liked, and at a decent price. When it got here, they had packed it with dessicant, and the cigars were effectively ruined, being drier than the Sahara in a heat wave. Their customer service, when I called to complain, essentially said “Lol, that sucks. Bye.” Any offers from them, email or print, go straight to the round file in this house.

ARGH BLARGH GENDER!

March 26, 2009 - 4:54 pm Comments Off

So, it seems that among today’s activities for Marko, we have sparking off a minor kerfuffle regarding guns, gender, and the presence or absence of issues thereof. He’s got a lot of nodding and general acknolwedgments of awesome from lady gunnies, and some small bit of quibble as well. Tam pointed it out for folks that may have missed it, and got her second (?) visit from a particularly loltastic anon troll that likes to shake and froth like an overloaded washing machine every time she brings up having ovaries and this making any sort of impact on how life goes for her.

Anyway. Seeing as how posting a bunch of snippits of things I have observed over time seems to be a format that’s working out well for me lately, and that I’ve already brought up just about everything directly relevant to what’s sent my thoughts down these particular lines today, here are a few thoughts on talking about gender on the interweb like a sane person.

-You are talking to individual people, not the official representatives of the Man Guild or the Woman Guild. If person x brings up example foo of something that happened to them or something that tends to happen in general, going “WELL (insert chromosome set) DOES BAR ALL THE TIME” isn’t exactly helpful. Mostly it convinces everyone else in the thread that you’re a bit unhinged, or possibly that you’re not interested in acknowledging possessors of genitalia you don’t have as, y’know, people.

-Speaking of this general pattern, “the war between the sexes” is a handy phrase to describe these kinds of issues, not an actual war between the sexes. There is no body count. No command structure. No uniforms. No rules of engagement. If you keep talking as though there were, at best you come off as too bitter for discussion to be at all worthwhile, and at worse as though, more than some sort of justice or normalization of ethical behavior, you mostly just want your side to win.

-There is no “what women want” and “what men want” despite several people having made very successful careers marketing the idea. Getting pissed that individual man/woman whoever wants something other than what you were told they did, and men/women LIED TO YOU, feeds back into point one. Individual men and women are, frankly, lucky to really know what they really want, and if this weren’t true there would be far fewer single-and-looking people. They’d mostly be thrilled if you were to listen to them instead of doing whatever it is you have decided they want. At the very best possible result, you’re going to figure it out together.

-Going John/Jane Galt on the opposite sex is… well, if you feel you are incapable of coping with men/women then okay, but NO ONE is impressed when you say you’re taking yourself off the market FOREVAR from those dastardly, scheming men/women, because of the sins of their gender. It’s like having someone tell you you’re just not good enough to infect with syphilis- it’s hard to imagine that situation being a loss rather than a sort of abstract relief.

-Being heterosexual does not mean you actually like the opposite sex. It just means you’re attracted to them. Don’t conflate sexuality with presence or absence of misandry or misogyny, it’s entirely too misleading. The world’s gay people will thank you for it, since they’re looking to sleep with people that are attracted to them rather than just fed up with men/women.

-By the same token, genuinely liking the opposite sex also doesn’t mean you don’t have some sexist attitudes. You don’t have to mean badly to say or do something sexist. I’ve said/done some stuff in the past that makes me cringe in retrospect; I’ve always been quite fond of men, and never been given a single reason or even excuse to be bitter, but I’m not one. Getting it wrong from time to time goes with that territory. Being accused of being kind of condescending and/or clueless from time to time is NOT the same thing as being accused of wanting chop people up and wear their body parts as jewelry.

-Sexism is alive and well, kiddies, both the well-meaning and the malicious varieties alike. If you get all defensive at someone who claims to have had a bad experience on the score, telling them they’re wrong and it wasn’t actually sexist and they’re overreacting doesn’t do a damn thing but convince them that you’re clueless and possibly also carrying around such tendencies. The huffier you get, the more it sounds like you saw yourself mirrored in whatever they described. Telling someone they’re all wrong about something they have direct experience with is a really bad debate strategy in general.

-Turning it around and holding up the opposite sex as *superior* and using the broad brush to flatter isn’t actually better. It’s still pretty dehumanizing, not to mention stressful. Just from my end of the stick, I’m barely capable of “civilizing and gentling” ME, let alone men in general- and I can’t imagine being expected to slay mammoths, invading armies, spiders, and then pick up the bill at the end is that much fun, either. High platforms are just high places to fall from.

-If you’re male, your gender is brimming over with lying, abusive men that use and discard women and laugh about it afterward. If you are female, your gender is brimming over with lying, abusive women that use and discard men and laugh about it afterward. Aspects of society contain refuges and get-out-of-consequence-free cards for both. Pretending unjust things just never ever happen to the opposite sex or are minor compared to the grievous insults suffered by yours is both bullshit AND incredibly unproductive.

-“Men/women won’t behave in just the way I always please” is not an injustice of any kind. That’s you being a narcissistic bitch or bastard.

Sometimes I think we’d actually get along better if we DIDN’T depend on sexual reproduction as a species- and then I figure that we’d find a way anyway…

These Things I Believe

March 24, 2009 - 7:03 pm Comments Off

You can’t make people happy by law. If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago “Would you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the world’s music and sights and foods can be brought into your home at small cost, travelling even 100 miles is easy, childbirth is generally not fatal to mother or child, you don’t have to die of dental abcesses and you don’t have to do what the squire tells you” they’d think you were talking about the New Jerusalem and say ‘yes’.

— Terry Pratchett

I don’t really call myself much of anything firm when it comes to politics and ideology, at least not without a lot of hemming and hawing and mealy-mouthed qualifiers. I’m a conservative- but socially liberal in a lot of ways, and there are a lot of other “conservatives” that make my hide want to twitch right off. I’m a libertarian, but I want some controls and limits anyway because I think pure libertarianism contains just as many in the ways of crippling ideological flaws as pure Marxism does. I’m a minarchist, but put me in the same room with an anarchist and we’ll rip each others’ fool heads off*- and when you get right down to it I’m not exactly sure where the lines should be drawn for that -archy. At all.

So, I don’t have an ideology so much as I have a number of guidelines. Here are a few of them.

Any system that depends upon people becoming better people en masse, no matter what motivation is offered- spiritual, material, or political- is doomed to failure. More or less instantly, in fact. If it depends on EVERYBODY being better, no exceptions, then it’s not only going to fail, it’s going to go up in flames overnight.

Even if you do, in fact, know what’s good for someone better than they do, if they’re not your minor child you have no right to enforce this upon them in any way unless their poor conduct is putting you in direct danger.

People do not act altruistically at all times. People do not act rationally at all times. People do not act morally at all times. People do not act independently at all times. If your vision depends on them doing so even most of the time, your idea is in trouble.

There is no such thing as freedom without responsibility, or responsibility without freedom. You must take them both together or not at all, and if you think you can get away with it otherwise, someone has sold you an illusion and the bill will be coming due shortly. There is only one natural right: to do as you will. There is only one natural duty: to accept the consequences. The rest of society is a negotiation from this starting point, from contract law right on up to the death penalty.

People are more than animals, and yet animals still. Any system which ignores this truism is doomed to see people fulfill it to the most blatant and grotesque degree.

Likewise, any system that treats people like animals and nothing more has a very nasty series of surprises coming to it.

No idea, no matter how good, survives contact with reality intact. If one good blow will cause it to shatter, it wasn’t a good idea.

Some people will be philosophical in the face of extremity. There is also a reason why such a minority of people are philsophical to any degree at all. Don’t expect philosophical from people in extremis, be pleasantly surprised by it.

People have a hard ceiling on their ability to understand and manage complexity. No matter how smart and rational the people you put in charge are, and how many of them there are, once the system exceeds a certain size they will be incapable of controlling it, only succumbing to the illusion that being in control of the resultant bureaucracy is the same thing. This applies to traffic, economies, religions, and many other systems.

There is no more tragic misapprehension than “we are wiser now”. Assume at all times we are no wiser than we were in the Pleistocene, even if we are more advanced in knowledge. Knowledge is cumulative, the wisdom that comes from experience is not. This is why historical lessons must be relearned generationally. Never assume that that stops with yours.

You are NOT capable of fully controlling the behavior or reactions of another person. If your plan depends on this and nothing else, your plan is entirely dependent on luck. This also applies to crowds, nations, and any other unit of humanity, up to and including significant others.

Stereotypes and labels and prejudices don’t exist because society is rotten, they exist because it’s part of how we cope cognitively with a complex world that often demands decisions based on little or no information. If you think you can or have rid yourself of them, you have merely rid yourself of self-knowledge.

Children may be innocent, but innocence does not imply harmlessness. Rather the opposite. Remember that innocence is the opposite of knowledge. It is not something to be treasured in and of itself.

Children do not receive a visit from the Judgment Fairy on their eighteenth birthday- they rely on their parents for that, and they had better well have as much of it as they can possibly gather before they become adults. Remember that when contemplating when to broach the subjects of firearms, sex, alcohol, or anything else deemed “adult”. When the law deems them so is too late.

Life is inherently unfair and absolutely jam-packed with disproportionate consequences for minor bad decisions. There are more of these aspects that are immune to engineering than aren’t. Treat any and all proposals to engineer the parities of life with great skepticism.

Lack of education can turn a person with great innate intelligence into an idiot, but extra education cannot make a great mind of a person with little of it, any more than twenty years of music school can make a great musician out of the tone-deaf and arrhythmic.

All people are basically the same under the skin by dint of being humans. This only goes so far- merely because someone else can speak your language does NOT mean they think like you, and it is the height of dangerous arrogance to assume as much. Fish have no word for water, and you are probably unaware of most of your assumptions that stem from your culture rather than your biology or specific rearing. Likewise, any assumption that all members of another cultural context think and behave in the same ways is equally mistaken. If you can’t get six randomly chosen people on your home street to agree on pizza toppings, assume that similar diversity and disagreement exists in other cultures, scaling in degree with the degree of importance of the issue.

Freedom for other people invariably and inevitably means discomfort for you- physical, emotional, and moral.

Your causes and ideals are just that- yours. You do not have the right to force other people to work to achieve them, and you do not have the ability to force them to care.

*Unless it’s civilization’s most civil one, of course. Perhaps strong words over tea, but I doubt it.

ETA: ARRRGH. Well, I don’t seem to have stolen anything else from Marko aside from the title and the format. It was unintentional- apparently when I read it ages ago it lodged a seed of “what a good idea for a post”… Thanks to Blunt Object for catching that for me.

Followup

March 24, 2009 - 5:54 pm Comments Off

More from Muscledaddy on the “GIVE” bill, the AIG bonus tax, and the difference between a democracy and a republic- and the dangers of the former- here.

Here’s a hint: a majority of that queer organism, the public, can tyrannize just as effectively if not moreso than a ruthless dictator. Mobs are not known for their restraint or for their compassion.

Irony: Ur doin' it rite

March 23, 2009 - 8:46 pm Comments Off

So, it comes to pass that a Texan legislator wishes to pass a bill that would force Texas to certify graduate degrees in “creation science” from the Institute of Creationism Research.

One might think this would have me hopping mad. Instead, I’m vastly amused. This is why:

HB 2800 does not specifically name ICR; it would allow any institution that meets its criteria to be exempt from the board’s authority. But Berman says ICR was the inspiration for the bill because he feels creationism is as scientific as evolution and should be granted equal weight in the educational community….

….Berman sees the board’s decision to deny ICR certification as a double standard.

“If a school’s teaching all evolution, would that be a balanced education?” he asked. “So it’s the same thing on both ends of the stick.”

Of course, you can’t legislate what “weight” anything is given in the educational community, especially science education, because that’s not how it works. The Institute for Creationism Science believes and teaches that the earth is six thousand years old and everything in geology is the result of either Biblically described catastrophes or Satan’s deceptions; even if you can get someone mulling over Intelligent Design and “irreducible complexity”, the ICR’s version of events is blatant bullshit for anyone even vaguely familiar with the natural sciences. This is why the Discovery Institute exists- they’re specifically trying to distance themselves from this kind of credibility-destroying nonsense even as they press their own nonsense in more respectable clothes.

What you CAN change is the state’s standards for recognizing something as “an education”, which is exactly what Berman is trying to do. And as the other legislators in the article are pointing out with alarm, it will destroy the credibility of the Texas certification of degrees and turn the state into what everyone else can see is a bogus degree mill as other bunco institutions take advantage.

Therefore, Berman the creationist is doing his level best to naturally select a Texas-certified degree right out of existence as something worth more than the paper it’s printed on. Completely un-self-consciously.

I can’t do anything BUT have a good laugh at THAT.

Better Living Through Engineering

March 22, 2009 - 3:29 pm Comments Off

Mmmm, a fresh bag of your favorite coffee, waiting for the loving application of carefully measured and precisely heated water to bring forth the best possible flavor and aroma. It’s going to be a good day.

But… wait… if I open the bag, the vacuum seal will break, and oxygen will reach my precious beans! The delicious oils will begin to break down and produce sub-optimal coffee! What will I do? How can I avoid this stark nightmare of inadequate caffeine delivery?!

BAM.
Battery operated happiness

Know what that is? That’s modern freakin’ technology kicking ass in a compact package, that’s what that is. No longer a slave to the petty whims of atmosphere, that little can will pump out a pretty dang respectable amount of air from around your precious beans to keep them at peak flavor for longer.

pumplid

See? Even got a little filter for dust. Pour in your favorite recently-opened bag o’ beans, flip the latch down, and the little button on top…
released

Yeah, that one at the back. That’s your vacuum indicator right there. Flip the clamp up, lever it down into the closed position just like any other regular kitchen jar, and you’re rewarded with this ridiculously cute little “chug-chug-chug-chug-chug” noise as it evacuates all (ok, most of) the evil oxygen from its precious cargo. Here we see it partway done:
almostthere

Hell yeah. Coffee preservation achieved with just a couple of AA batteries!

“But Stingray,” I hear some smarty pants getting ready to pipe up in the back, “what about the natural off-gassing from the beans themselves? That’s why they had to come up with those little one-way valves for the coffee bags in the first place!”

Well to that I reply stop being a damn know-it-all in the middle of my post! You know and I know perfectly well that roasted coffee will continue to emit gas until it’s ground and used, you think folks obsessed enough to make a hand-held vacuum-pumping kitchen gizmo forgot about it? Nope, you’re covered there too. On the bottom is a little switch (which doesn’t photograph well, incidentally) to control how often the pump kicks on to take care of that little problem. Paranoid, or have fresh home-roasted coffee? Set that sucker to run every 12 hours. A little less paranoid? Go every 24, or even every 48. The first few days you have one of these, it won’t be a problem though. The sheer awesomeness of walking around with a little silver canister going “chug-chug-chug-chug-chug” in your hands will make sure the air is pumped out pretty often. Don’t ask how I know this!

And there you have it. For the price of a dinner and a couple of beers, you too can have a free-standing testament to just how awesome modern technology has become. What self-respecting coffee snob could possibly live without one?