Ramblings

Usually drunken.

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A[nother] Challenger Approaches

Jun 11, 2009, 8:16 pm by Paul Stiverson

A little less than a year ago I commented on Cuil, a search engine that was trying to compete with Google for a slice of that money cake that Google has been nomming on for quite some time. Now Microsoft is throwing their hat in the ring too… again (there has always been an MSN search engine which sucks). They recently unveiled a new service called Bing, which I predict—like Cuil—will not be able to squeeze out a toe-hold on the search market. Alas, Microsoft is sidestepping the primary error that Cuil made, they are advertising the shit out of Bing, and they are doing so in markets that appeal to the internet savvy—or at least internet aware—crowd. This past week they had a live Hulu broadcast of “Bing-a-thon”, which starred a hostess from G4 (Olivia Munn). I didn’t watch it because I fucking hate Microsoft (and I forgot when it was on), but the adverts made it out to be a hilarious and raucous event. I’m sure it was nothing more than a drawn out advertisement, but if Microsoft is willing to pay for me to watch Arrested Development and Stargate SG-1 by buying up ad space on Hulu then I’m not going to stop them.

Now, what does Bing have going for it? Well they make themselves out to be more than a search engine, instead it is a “Decision Engine”. I’m not entirely sure what that is supposed mean, but there is probably some functionality that facilitates decision making, how useful it is/will be is yet to be seen. Bing also features a fancy looking front page which juxtaposes the minimalist Google front page quite nicely. I really can’t help but notice how similar Cuil and Bing are in their logotype (see below), both names are short, set in sans-serif, and both feature a color changed ‘I’ glyph (or at least a color changed part), and finally they (like this site) are set entirely in lower-case. I wonder if their choices are somehow related.
Cuil logo vs Bing logo

General Motors

Jun 2, 2009, 9:30 am by Paul Stiverson

When I heard the news yesterday that General Motors had declared bankruptcy I was not terribly surprised, but when I heard that they were going to see $30 billion more in taxpayer money I was a bit disturbed. GM has never made any apologies about screwing the American people, from their plant closings preceding the collapse of several steel-belt towns so GM could find greener (cheaper) pastures, to their general disregard for consumers in continuing to produce outdated designs and hiding behind the “Buy American” banner. As far as I’m concerned the American public owes them nothing: disloyalty deserves disloyalty.

During this economic downturn we the people have given them $47 billion without even a whiff of a promise of them creating any new jobs (or rather, restoring any of the jobs they have outsourced). Instead they will take that money (amounting to 60% of their market value), restructure by selling off brands, close a slew of plants, and try to recapture some of their previous “America, fuck yeah” market share with increasingly foreign made cars.

At the risk of sounding like a “What America needs” liberal, what Americans needs right now are companies that improve the buying power of the average American consumer while offering products and services that consumers want. The only way to improve the buying power of folks is to reduce unemployment by ensuring a steady stream of new jobs that a layman is capable of performing. I’m sure many GM apologists will blame unions for causing the downfall of the American auto industry, but there is plenty of blame to go around; union greed is a factor, but it is not the straw that broke the camel’s back. Look at Toyota, they have several plants in the United States, and they have to deal with the same organized labor laws that GM has to deal with. Blaming unions for this failure is simply unacceptable.

As with most problems with the industrial economy the failures are due to inertia, companies that fail to innovate are doomed to failure, and GM is the worst of the bunch. I, for one, say let them burn. Let a strong and innovative company step up and take their place (FWI: I’m not talking about Ford, they—like GM—have failed to produce any significant innovations in auto technology since the single cast V-8).

On Matters Washingtonia

May 25, 2009, 6:49 pm by Zach

Rainier beerAs many of you may already know, I recently moved to Seattle. While I certainly miss Texas--especially the food--Seattle is a pretty nice place to live. The weather is mild and not quite the depressing constant rain that we've all undoubtedly heard so much about. The people are polite on the surface and I can go grocery shopping, get drunk, and eat great Thai food without ever leaving a few block radius of my apartment.

One thing stands out, however. The Northwest is home to many, many microbreweries. Alas, I can find lots of great IPAs made locally. This post is not about great IPAs. This post, gentlemen, is about Rainier beer: Washington's version of Lone Star. Note the white, red and gold color scheme. It tastes about like Lone Star, but not as good. Although I have yet to see it sold in bottles, I'm told that their bottle caps contain the same kind of puzzles found on Lone Star caps. This guy has an archive of solutions. Whether Rainier was made in the image of Lone Star, the contrary, or the two are products of convergent evolution, I'm not sure. That would require about 10 more minutes of searching and I'm due to a Memorial Day BBQ* soon.

*There will be a grill, but whether or not Northwesterners actually know their asses from their elbows when it comes to BBQ remains to be seen.

Hulu Adverts

May 25, 2009, 11:27 am by Paul Stiverson

Sprint’s Now Network

According to an interesting commercial which is appearing on Hulu these days, Sprint’s Now Network privacy policy needs some revision. Apparently they want potential customers to believe that they monitor and scan emails, text messages, tweets, locations, and… well everything else that their customers are up to. Interesting gambit, lets see if it works out.

Ketel One Vodka

Ketel One’s new ad campaign which is appearing on Hulu features a bunch of manly men (think people acting like Barney from How I Met Your Mother) purporting that drinking other vodkas is not manly because they come in “Delicately painted perfume bottles.” They end the ad by saying “Gentlemen, this is vodka”, while at the bottom of the screen they flash “DISTILLED FROM WHEAT. 40% ALC/VOL”. Yeah, real manly, vodka distilled from wheat, why don’t you ‘real men’ try drinking some real vodka made from potatoes.

Contest Awards

May 23, 2009, 10:37 am by Paul Stiverson

Recently I’ve had a couple friends ask for my endorsement toward awards for which they were nominated. In case you are unfamiliar, the granters of these awards find nominees somehow then—instead of bringing in a panel of judges to determine who is most deserving of the award—they open up the voting online and basically see who has more friends they can goad into voting for them. I, for one, will not play ball; if there is an award to be given it should be given based on merit, not on popularity (unless of course the award is actually a popularity contest, in which case the two are interchangeable).

Ben Morris and the Great American Boxcar Chorus asked me to participate in just such a contest. After fighting tooth and nail to be nominated in a number of categories they perpetually bothered me (via their mailing list) to vote for them in their quest to be named “Live Band of the Year” at the Texas Music Awards. They eventually won the award, but without my support. I probably would have lent my support to them had I seen the band perform that year (and a significant number of the other nominees so I could make a reasonable comparison) because I love “Ben and Them”, but I will not sully the award by supporting their bid for it if I, personally, cannot say that they are the best live Texas country band of the year (judging by the shows I saw last year they were not). I did attend one of their shows after the award was presented, and I will say that they were very entertaining (as is the new album), and I probably would have voted for them given that performance.

More recently a photographer friend of mine was nominated for “Best Wedding Photographer” in Dallas-Fort Worth, and despite the fact that they did not photograph my wedding (I’m not married), despite the fact that I have not attended a wedding which they photographed, despite the fact that I have not even seen any of their wedding photos or spoken to a happy, well-photographed bride, they have asked for me to vote for them. I really only have experience with one wedding photographer in the D-FW area, the elderly couple who photographed Mark’s Wedding, and by god I can’t imagine that any worse photographers exist, but that doesn’t mean that my friends are the best. In the email soliciting my support they didn’t even bother to send a photograph of a satisfied bride, they just assumed that by virtue of friendship that I would support them in this supposedly skill-based competition. If somebody needs a wedding photographer I will support my friends by suggesting them as a photographer that I know, but I will not vouch that they are the best in the area because I cannot validate such claims.

I cannot blame my friends for asking for my support, they are doing what is necessary to win the contest, I can only blame the holders of the contest. If you are thinking about giving an award then please, please, seriously please find a panel of judges and look at the portfolios of the nominees to determine which is the best, don’t just put a form on the internet unless you only care about which nominee has the most unscrupulous friends.

Done.

Apr 30, 2009, 8:29 am by Paul Stiverson

So, yesterday I got the best email I’ve probably ever gotten.

Paul Stiverson:

CONGRATULATIONS! All of your manuscript corrections are done and your forms have been received. You are cleared by the Thesis Office.

Thank you.

What this means is that I am all the way done with my Master’s degree, all I have left to do is walk across the stage. If you would like to read my thesis it is available on this site.

For those who are unaware, I have been offered another summer position at Ames, so I will be leaving for California very shortly after the aforementioned stage walking. I am excited to be going back, I sort of need a vacation from school.

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, I would say that I’ve been too busy, but really I’ve been too lazy. I promise to make some good posts soon.

Party like a Texas-Country Star

Apr 8, 2009, 10:08 am by Paul Stiverson

Stoney and the brisketI have a clear memory of the following, but should the accuracy of any of the following come into question my fellow blogger, John, can be contacted for corroboration: he was there and reliably sober.

Prelude

For those who are unaware, an event by the name of Chilifest occurred last weekend. Chilifest is a fairly large 2-day Texas-Country music festival, probably about 12 bands played, 70,000 fans watched, and each of them averaged about a 24 pack of beer. It’s a pretty big deal for this area, this year I elected to stay home and not get irreparably sunburned, and I’m certain I didn’t miss too terribly much. A fair number of local businesses try very hard to cash in on the obvious cash cow that is Chilifest, and The Hall is no exception. Each year they throw an after-party to ensnare the group of people that didn’t quite get enough excitement—or that hate their livers a little more than most. This year The Hall brought in a great act, The Doug Moreland Show. The show was outstanding, but poorly attended because about three quarters of the standard demographic for the hall had collapsed from exhaustion at this point. This post is not about Chilifest, The Hall, or The Dough Moreland Show, but rather the events that unfolded after the after-party. The names have not been changed: fuck the innocent.

The Doug Moreland Show

Doug Moreland is probably one of my favorite Texas Country Acts, John, my fellow blogger, is also a fan. As you may know from reading this blog John lives in Houston, but he comes in whenever there is something cool happening, and the night in question was no exception. When he comes to town he stays with a common friend and dance partner, Mallory: an energetic, outgoing, and generally pretty fun gal, who joined us on this magical night. During Doug’s show we notice a small entourage in a nearby area, and one of us recognizes that Stoney Larue, a fairly prominent character on the Texas-Country scene, and his band are that entourage. Occasionally we would see them perk up their ears as John and Mallory would start putting on their Jitterbug routine, and we agreed that it was pretty cool that the performers were enjoying our performances.

After Doug finished up the show we resolved that it was time to go home, John went to close the bar-tab, I went to greet Doug and his band, and Mallory vanished like a fart in the wind. When John and I approach the empty table we both notice a distinct absence of Mallory and set out to find her, I find that she left her phone at the table leaving us incommunicado. I track down one of the other girls in our party and get her to check the bathrooms, no Mal is forthcoming, at this point I am a little worried. I asked the bartender, he has no idea. I decide that she must have gone out to the car, not there; at this point I realize that John is now missing too, I am very worried. The last place that hasn’t been checked is Stoney Larue’s tour bus, which is sitting in the parking lot.

The Tour Bus

I snatch open the door to the bus and poke my head in to see Mal and Stoney’s bass player, Jesse, siting on the couch chatting, they notice me and invite me in where I find John sitting on the opposite couch. At this point my phone buzzes at me with a new text message from John: “In stoney’s bus” (1:50AM). Gee, thanks for the update. I sit next to John and we start in with some mindless banter. Stoney and his band are sponsored by Shiner, so Jesse offered us each a beer which we gladly accepted. There was general coolness going on as some of Doug’s band-mates and Doug himself came and went from the bus, aslo a couple groupie-type girls came on the bus and started pouring (horribly mixed) shots. Eventually Stoney himself emerged from the bowels of the bus and joined us.

There was a disposable pan on the counter that held about half a brisket—apparently donated by a fan—that Stoney was intermittently munching on and offering to the 6 of us on the bus (it is not an exaggeration when I say this is the best 2AM brisket I have ever had). At some point Stoney inexplicably took off his shirt (I think one of the groupie-type girls asked to see his tattoos or something stereotypical like that). While getting some more brisket Stoney impales the whole thing with the knife holds it up while making a pirate noise, it was pretty hilarious, but you could tell he was doing it to please himself (he was not looking at us, but rather the darkened window which was giving a small reflection). We continued talking about nonsense for a while; Stoney disappeared and re-emerged still topless but with a guitar. Now, I am not really a fan of Stoney’s music, I like it but I’m not going to go out of my way to hear it, but when he turned down the lights on the bus and started jamming out I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t come out in his stage shows, but Stoney is fairly talented on the guitar.

The Brisket

Toward the end of Stoney’s solo jam he hits the wrong fret and everybody’s ear cringe, Jesse calls him out and the two of them start joshing with each other, Jesse takes off his shirt and they—while on all fours—start circling each other like dogs trying to sniff each others asses. The pair stand up—in the process Jesse’s pants fell down, and, not one to be outdone, Stoney loses his pants too. Stoney grabs the brisket and throws it at Jesse, hitting him solidly on the chest and falling to the ground. Jesse laughs it off and hugs Stoney, the both of them are now greased up, and Stoney picks up the brisket. I though he was going to put it back in the pan, but he has a different idea: throw it at the mirror (you can see the mirror in question in the picture at the top of the post, pre brisket stain). Stoney picks up the brisket a third time, I thought one of the other people in the room was going to get a brisket to the chest, but instead he takes a bite, tearing it like a lion. One of the groupie-type girls thought this was pretty gross considering the circumstances, but everybody else saw no problem with the consumption and Stoney held it in front of everybody (one at a time) to allow us to tear a chunk off with our faces. Shortly after partaking in the brisket, Stoney passed around the salsa (which can also be seen in the image above) for everybody to take a swig from, only Stoney, Jesse, John and I were manly enough to drink it though. Also John, then later Mallory licked the brisket spot on the mirror.

Soon after the brisket incident everybody calmed down and we parted ways at about 4AM. Waking up the next morning I realized that it was not all a dream because of the chunk of brisket that was on my glasses. I can honestly say that this night was one of the strangest and most unexpected events of my life, and walking away from it I will forever be a Stoney Larue fan.
Stoney being pensive

Mountain Biking - Part 2: "The Wipe Out"

Mar 24, 2009, 7:58 am by John

So yesterday afternoon my buddy and I went riding in Terry Hershey Park here in Houston. It's basically a 7 or so mile long park following a creek with a concrete path on one side and a mountain biking/hiking dirt trail on the other. About 20 minutes into the ride we decide to switch bikes just to see how the other rode. So my buddy and I are riding along the dirt path and get to this fairly steep 10' tall hill. Neither one of us makes it up the front side and have to walk to the top of the hill. He immediately jumps on my bike and makes it down no problem. At the end of the hill was a big tree lying across the path and so he jumps off the bike to get under it, just as I take off from the top of the hill.

So the path down the back side of this hill is covered in roots from rain water washing the dirt out and other mountain bikers. This usually is a bigger deal going up than down so I didn't think too much of it...yet. So I start off and go over a couple roots no problem and then I get to this one that's sticking up about 6" above the trail. I'm not sure if I didn't try to pick up the front wheel or as I did I hit the brake, all I know is that I hit the root and my front tire stopped immediately. So, this isn't the first time this has happened and usually I just jump off the seat, put my feet on the ground, and awkwardly walk down the hill. This would not be the case today.

As my front tire stopped I jump off my seat, put my feet on the ground, and said "Uh oh!," immediately catching my buddy's attention so he could watch the events unfold. As my feet hit the ground the rear tire lifted and I went straight over the bars. As I fell over the bars I tucked my right shoulder, I think I do this because of the number of times I jumped off my house and out of trees as a kid. Anyway, as I tucked my shoulder my left foot came up first and my heel caught the pedal of the bike, lifting it and sending it soaring in the air. As I landed flat on my back I looked up at a bike, that isn't mine, flying through the air. It landed about 4 feet away.

At this point my buddy is also on the ground, except he's laughing his ass off. He somehow squeezed out "are you OK?," and by this time I realized that I wasn't in too much pain. I got back up, checked his bike and our cell phones that were in my Camelback. Thankfully there were no injuries to the rider, the bike, or the phones. We continued our ride and got a solid 13 miles in.

My buddy swears it's the funniest thing he's seen in a long time. My shoulder's a little sore this morning.

Sea Town, Here I Come!

Mar 22, 2009, 10:22 pm by Zach

space needleI'm going to Seattle tomorrow morning. I'm going to be getting a physical for a job I hope to get. Don't ask me why I have to go to Seattle to get the physical--that's just what my travel orders state. Getting asked to get a physical means I'm quite a bit closer to landing my dream job, provided that I pass the physical and that at least one other person does not pass the physical, which may be the case, since they don't ask you to get it unless someone else failed or is disqualified.

Even though I'm only going to be there for a few days and it'll be mostly sitting in a doctor's office, I'm pretty excited. The only other time I was in Seattle was a far-too-long layover in the Sea-Tac airport in the middle of the night with nothing to eat but fast food. This time I might get a little time to see the city.

I'm also stoked about getting a three day extension on spring break. I need a rest from SXSW!

I’d rather be dancing ballroom

Mar 12, 2009, 10:37 am by Paul Stiverson

Last week at The Hall I realized that I am becoming increasingly frustrated with country-western dancing. I guess it isn’t specifically the dancing that I am bored with, but rather the (wait, let me get out my soapbox) relatively low quality of the average partner. There are, of course, some outstanding dancers to be found at The Hall, but they are the minority. I am usually fortunate to be surrounded by good partners, but on slow nights I find myself torn between my desire to dance, and my aversion to dancing with somebody who (a) is no good, and (b) has no desire to improve (either of the two is fine, but together it is a shitty combination).

Another infuriating aspect of C&W is the lack of dancing etiquette. There are a few simple rules that—when followed my everybody—make dancing much more pleasant, they prevent collision and reduce traffic-jams. However, folks at honky-tonks have no knowledge of these guidelines (or perhaps they know them but have no desire to follow them, either way the result is the same). These rules include: No standing on the dance-floor, slower moving couples should stay to the inside of the dance-floor allowing faster moving couples to pass by, avoid stopping (for floor moves or otherwise) in a choked area of the dance-floor, don’t attempt lifts when another couple is in striking distance, and remain vigilant of other couples so as to avoid collisions.

The Hall has also made a deliberate shift in their musical selection, this move toward Nashville Country is infuriating. The management claims it is good for business, but I don’t see how selling out your regulars and becoming exactly like your competition is a good thing.

There is no denying that there are bad dancers and people with poor etiquette at ballroom dances as well. However there is adequate social pressure to correct the etiquette problems, and it is easier to recognize good dancers.

I will continue to dance C&W because it is fun and I still enjoy the different social aspects of a honky-tonk, but there are several things that I would change given the opportunity.

don't just say google

Mar 7, 2009, 4:25 pm by Lew

here let me google that for youI have something that matters to share with the internet. When someone asks a question don't just tell them to google it. A question is a way of starting a conversation. conversations are an essential tool for human survival and happiness. if someone asks you a question they are interested in you. they have some sort of respect for you and want you to share knowledge. we could just google everything but that isn't a society i want to partake in.

Gogo Thismatters

Mar 4, 2009, 6:39 am by Paul Stiverson

check the stats, yo.So, I’m pretty anal about checking the statistics of thismatters, this morning I checked the stats for February (at right). Fifteen Hundred viewers in the month of February, 50% more than January. Eat your heart out [other self-run website about nothing].

In case you’re wondering almost all the hits were for my Lone Star bottle cap collection, and a great deal of them came from a meta-filter article about Lone Star Beer—which I swear I didn’t write—that gave me a pretty big shout out. The link from the Lone Star Beer Wikipedia entry has always brought in a few hits, but this meta-filter page is doing gangbusters.

If I keep getting mad hits on my cap view page then I might have to add an ad to it and start making back some of these hosting costs. I know what you’re thinking, ads are stupid and annoying, and you are right, but one company is actually doing internet ads the right way. If I were to add an ad it would be through them, but I probably won’t because ads are stupid and annoying, plus I have a job and don’t really need the money.

    you're definitely doing it way wrong

    Feb 27, 2009, 6:06 pm by Trey

    BBBOOOOOCCCKKKK!!!!!!to kind of lighten up the mood of the blog for a change; i came across this motivational poster while i was being bored on the internet today.
    it pertains in two ways:
    a. you're doing it wrong
    b. i like chickens

    it made me giggle, thoughts?

    Axioms: Meta-Nature's Candy

    Feb 24, 2009, 11:16 pm by Paul Stiverson

    The following is a guest post made by my roommate, Tim.

    Sometimes in philosophy and math, it becomes requisite to acknowledge that certain "facts" are unverifiable. Assumptions are made, and arguments use these assumptions as a starting point. There's not a question of them being right or wrong, as they're either "self-evident" or just light from the proverbial void. I point this out in reference to a statement that "2+2=4" is "always completely verifiable". It's not that it's a bad assumption to make, but it's being somewhat abused to make a point about morality or birth control... or something.

    Let's start with what doesn't have anything to do with scientific fact (in this case, because it isn't scientific). Firstly, the afore-mentioned "2+2=4" is a special instance of what is called the law of identity (e.g. a = a). For certain arguments, this so-called law has been used as the assumption upon which various blitheringly stupid arguments have been made (see: Ayn Rand). Basically, science doesn't enter into it. Science is all about figuring things out based on empirical observation (called "a posteriori" knowledge), and the law of identity is self-asserting, not based on experience (called "a priori" knowledge), but draws its truth value from the claim itself. 2+2=4 is neither a scientific claim nor a scientific fact.

    That being said, let's talk about another thing that doesn't have anything to do with scientific fact (in this case, because it isn't fact). It's true that scientists of a sort became aware of a possible health danger exists in the consumption of eggs. Researchers (people who experiment and analyze results) discovered a link between the amount and type of cholesterol in egg yolks and a dangerous increase in LDL cholesterol levels in the human blood stream. The researchers in question work in biomedical science, which at this point is far softer science than something like chemistry, making it particularly difficult to verify the veracity of claims made. At very best, there was fairly compelling evidence that the assertion could be true. The link was popularized, and many people did accept as "gospel truth" that "eggs gon' kill us". This speaks more to the fickleness of the general populus and less to the claims made by "science". As happens with things that may or may not be true, studies have been done that suggest the exact opposite; that eggs in fact lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. The absolute truth of the matter is arguably difficult to pin down, and as long as people keep immediately believing anything published on paper, people will continue to scapegoat "science" for giving us lowly commoners "facts" that later end up not being true. To clarify, the Houston Chronicle's "health" section doesn't count as science, as far as any vaguely accurate definition is concerned.

    Now, let's change things up completely and talk about why scientific fact doesn't have anything to do with what was said (in this case, because the term "scientific fact" doesn't make a damned bit of sense). The "facts" (I'm just going to discuss the laws of thermodynamics as the strongest possible objection to my own argument) that science currently possesses are very strong, but no matter how strong they contend to be, there's an implicit assumption that they are correct and that they are just so compelling that they're almost certainly true. I'm not going to disagree, as they are very, very compelling. Despite that opinion/fact, there are various contingencies in which science's strongest facts manage to be actively false (e.g. our context isn't as clear as it seems, there are forces at work we just flatly can't currently see... There are more. But don't take my word for it!).

    I've managed to pretty bluntly avoid my real problem with the obviously referent argument. The morality/ethics/religion/science battle royale being waged earlier was convoluted enough that I'm not sure that any of the parties involved were necessarily sure what was even being argued. But I suppose that's content for another headache.

    I suppose it's pointless to mention that THIS MATTERS.

    Mountain Biking

    Feb 17, 2009, 2:18 pm by John

    I finally decided that i am gaining too much weight and needed to do something about it. i have joined a gym and it is nice to have a place to workout and destroy co-workers in racquetball but sometimes i just want to be outside. i have also found, over the years, that i despise running because i find it one of the most boring things to do ever.

    I have some friends in college station and here, in houston, who mountain bike on a regular basis and after riding with them a few times i decided to go ahead and buy one (see pic)

    i rode it a few times up and down the bayou behind my house but didn't get into any intense riding until this weekend. while riding i came upon 2 very important discoveries. 1. know which way your shifters shift. when you get up to a big hill you don't want to go into a higher gear, stall out, and stumble half way down...in front of other people. this sounds simple but you would be amazed what actually happens when you get into this situation. 2. look at where you want to go and not where you don't want to. this, too, sounds simple but have you ever seen those video shows where the guy driving down the highway crashes into the police car sitting on the side of the road? same concept when applied to trees and stumps while riding a bike.

    anyway, i would recommend this source of exercise to anyone. it's a great way to get out and get some fresh air, while getting a full body work out without getting bored.
    http://www.fisherbikes.com/img/bikes/2009/640x400/

    Update (Re: Options)

    Feb 16, 2009, 1:28 pm by Paul Stiverson

    I previously posted that I was considering quitting graduate school after finishing my Master’s degree. I’m happy to say that I have decided against that plan. My new advisor was able to pull some strings at NASA and get them to open up a fellowship position for me which led to a significant pay increase from my previous salary so I am in a much better financial situation than before. I’m still looking forward to teaching full (or at least mostly full) time, but I can put it off a few more years and muscle through my doctorate. In the interim I will continue to tutor and keep applying to be a lecturer here in the Mechanical Engineering department. As far as research goes I am enjoying my current topic a lot more now that I have funding and time to work on it, but will keep looking for a new and exciting topic for my Ph.D.

    As part of this development I took my qualifying exams (or prelims if you will) last week. I’m happy to announce that I passed them both on the first attempt, so I am now qualified to start Doctoral work.

    Valentine's Day

    Feb 14, 2009, 7:55 pm by Zach

    cupidI am sick of Valentine's Day. Not because of the commercialization or the fact that I'm single, but because of all the single people who complain about it. I know too many people who bitch about it for weeks on end and then have anti-Valentine's Day celebrations, wherein they pretend to not enjoy the idea of showing their loved ones what they mean to them. I celebrated anti-Valentine's Day exactly once, and that was when I was in 7th grade. Eleven years ago. I was 14 years old.

    Calling it Singles Awareness Day doesn't make you edgy. Nor does burning your panties or eating upside down heart cookies. Face the facts: you are, for some reason, obsessed with the idea of being in a relationship and bitter as fuck that you're not in one. You may say all the anti-V-Day stuff is a joke, but there's a kernel of truth to every joke. Maybe the reason you're single is because of your terrible attitude.

    Heaven forbid you let other people have fun today. Maybe one day when you find your sack and quit wearing shortpants to work, you might actually have a significant other and you will have fun celebrating V-Day. More than likely, you will not, so next year when you're feeling like a pathetic neckbearded lump of angst, try calling your mom or grandma and telling them happy Valentine's Day. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you and it'll give you something nice to do.

    Maybe next time Yom Kippur rolls around, I'll bitch and moan about it for weeks and call it Gentile Awareness Day. Or maybe on Bastille Day I'll have an anti-France party, even though I think France looks really lovely and I'd like to go one day. Anything to make a point to you chronic complainers.

    No Condoms

    Feb 4, 2009, 5:39 pm by Paul Stiverson

    Preface: this post was inspired by a pro-life facebook note that evolved into a discussion about contraceptive education in schools. This post can be considered an expansion on a previous post.

    Anytime I find myself in a civil dialog concerning abortion and unplanned pregnancy I always bring up the inadequacy of sexual education in schools, and it is always a touchy subject. I believe that when it comes to education that you must never seek to hide or alter the truth from the student, to do so keeps the student ignorant, and ultimately destroys the students’ ability to form coherent and informed opinions. Needless to say I think that sex-ed—if it is to be taught in public schools—should include common contraceptives as well as the merits of abstinence.

    I’m sure the careful reader is aware that the Holy Roman Catholic Church has—historically—taken a strong stance on the use of contraceptives: latex+penis=hell (although they are starting to come around). I can appreciate their views on the subject, they believe that when blocking the chance of conception the “marriage act” (Catholic for sex) is incomplete and amoral.1 This view doesn’t stop them from trying to prevent conception thought, oh no, they came up with a strategy for doing the marriage act without having kids and without bringing down the fire and brimstone. In order to not conceive you should practice natural family planning, to do it properly you should probably invest in a pocket calendar (for the record I have no problem with that being taught in schools, as long as condoms can get equal time).

    Now, in the recent past there has been quite a hubub regarding teaching kids about condom use—preferring to rely on shame and fear to keep kids safe—because of this (religious) belief. It seems to me that writing a curriculum based on some religious docorine is a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state. In order to get around that violation they changed their tune: contraceptive talk shouldn’t be allowed because their effectiveness is sub-optimal. Well sure, the effectiveness is debatable (99.98%2 isn't quite perfect), but even the worst condom is more effective than none at all, and couple it with an oral contraceptive and the effectiveness jumps significantly. Who’s keeping track. If we want to restrict sex-ed talks to methods that are 100% effective then why don’t we teach our kids about anal sex? Probably because the church thinks it is icky.3

    The time to start giving teens accurate, reliable, and unbiased information about their sexual health is now. To be completely honest though, I don’t think it should be the schools’ job, it is time for parents to step up to the plate and teach their children well.4 If it is to be taught in (public) schools then there should be no pretense regarding the morality of sex, keep it simple and give them the facts. Leave the sermons to the priests.

    Notes:

    1. I’m deriving this from the document Morals and Marriage, Part IV Morality of Intercourse, from a section titled “Purity implies sex”. Not a bad read, check it out if you’ve got some time to kill.
    2. Hatcher RA et al. Contraceptive Technology, 18th rev. ed. New York: Ardent Media, 2004.
    3. For the record, it is icky. That whole section on anal sex is a joke (a reference to a great site technicalvirgin.com, which has sadly been removed), lighten up zealots.
    4. [Crosby, Stills, and Nash joke here]

    Street Art II

    Jan 30, 2009, 9:54 am by Lew

    rocket shipThis was in a construction tunnel for the condo tower "the austonian" on Congress ave. I liked it. I thought it was neat that someone would spray paint a rocket ship.

    Administration Building

    Jan 23, 2009, 3:38 pm by Paul Stiverson

    The column toppers are awesomeFor those who are unaware, I have a pretty serious love affair going on with Texas. So, when I happened upon an orgy of Texas themed awesomeness I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you all.

    I had reason to visit the Jack K. Williams Administration Building on campus, which is a pretty sweet looking building from the outside. I had no idea the treat that I was in for. If you find yourself on the Texas A&M campus then stop by the administration building and treat yourself to some awesome.

    The included images are a taste of the treats in store for you.
    the floor is awesome

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