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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.

    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.


    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

    Array Brownies

    Jan 23, 2009, 2:01 pm by Lew

    array cake get!Yesterday was my bday and for the occasion my fiancee made me a delicious and hilarious microarray brownie cake. if you are a bio nerd this is funny. if not then it is jargon. i wanted to share though.

    Street Art I

    Jan 21, 2009, 3:47 pm by Lew

    Barton Springs under the Missouri Pacific BridgeI have long wanted to document street art that I happen upon. I finally got a camera phone so now I can start doing it. There are some street artists (that I have known) that have a strict code. They are artists using the outdoors as a gallery. They only put their art on public spots, like electic boxes and light polls. never on a building or private propert. many are wheat-pasters, they use a flour based adhesive so their pictures will dissolve after a month. i don't always condone street art. but some of it is really good. i won't post every scibble i happen on, but anything that obviously took some thought and effort i will add here. So here is my first contribution. This was taken on Barton Springs Road in Austin, it is a stencil sprayed on a bridge pillar on the missouri pacific (mopac) railroad bridge. enjoy.

    Fireside Chat

    Jan 21, 2009, 7:55 am by Paul Stiverson

    Exciting times in America, we have ourselves a new president: a liberal fellow who will surely restore some international (and intranational) trust in America, who will push us forward into the future with the only thing that can possibly push a people forward: forward thinking. Honestly, I will be happy if he just pushes for higher research funding, scientific research is the only thing that can make the future better than the present.

    As part of his presidency Barack Obama is bringing back the fireside chat, although it will not be called the fireside chat, but instead a “Weekly Video Address”. Every Saturday President Obama (it is really nice to finally say “President Obama”) will record and post a video aimed at the American public, hopefully to keep us apprised of situations and keep people engaged in civic participation.

    If you click on the above link you will be taken to the freshly re-designed WhiteHouse.gov which is done in the same style as Obama’s campaign website and the now-removed transition website, change.gov. Of course, WhiteHouse.gov will not feature any of the user-created content like BarackObama.com, and WhiteHouse.gov will have graphics set in a presidential Times New Roman rather than the sleek and hip Gotham which was used on all campaign materials.

    The new president will also, apparently, be keeping a blog, it is a brave new world.


    Jan 20, 2009, 4:34 pm by Lew

    First post during the Obama administration! I ducked out with a few co-workers to catch the inaugural address. We watched it at oaxacan tamaleo near our lab. starting out the obama administration with a plate of enfrioladas and good coffee was the right thing to do. it was just us and the tamale folks there watching it (it was a bit early for tamales). they were super nice to let watch it with them and provide tasty food. we walked in on the tail end of rick warren's prayer. i like him. i like him in the same way i like mike huckabbe. i disagree with him strongly but like him as a person. i thought it was a nice and touching invocation. aretha franklin proved that she is the only diva, damn she can sing like no one else alive. i am looking forward to beyonce singing "at last" for the first dance at the inaugural ball. but beyonce, don't forget aretha stills runs the show. i face palmed when the chief justice flubbed the swearing in. obama's speech was right on i thought. i am not sure it will be famous for generations but i thought it was right on for the climate right now. i whooped (really i did) when he said "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders..." and "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers." non-believers appreciate the shout out mr. president. The poem was a flop. the final convocation rocked. if you didn't see it you need to. it was the most memorable part of the inauguration.


    Jan 16, 2009, 4:40 pm by Trey

    Socks, now made to stay fresh.
    Two things to note in this picture...
    1. The big ass "socks" word.
    2. The "resealable bag" phrase in the middle of the picture.
    lol really? i found this while opening up my new socks today. I guess they are worried about them spoiling now-a-days. any other thoughts?

    iTunes and DRM

    Jan 11, 2009, 10:10 am by Paul Stiverson

    So, Apple announced that it is actively removing their version of Digital Rights Management (DRM) from their music store on iTunes. This decision lags significantly behind other online music stores moving away from restrictive DRM, and is long past due. Probably two years ago Apple introduced iTunes Plus which represented a class of songs that were available in higher quality than the standard iTunes, and were free of DRM. However, when they released it they were only making a limited selection of new music available on iTunes Plus; now they are going to retroactively make all songs iTunes Plus.

    I’ll say that this decision makes me extremely happy, it probably won’t stop me from pirating music (the stuff that really isn’t worth buying), but I will likely double the number of albums I will legally buy in a year. Typically I would only buy albums at local shows (assuming I like the music, John can back me up on this one), or if it is an artist I really like. The notable exceptions are albums that are out of print, largely unavailable for piracy, and extremely desirable: those I would buy on iTunes. I’ll admit that I have bought DRM’d music, but as a rule I find the practice of limiting the use of legitimately purchased media to be ridiculous. I still prefer to get a hard-copy, but a DRM-free soft copy is nearly as good.

    I’ll defend my piracy not because I like free (as in no cost), but because I like free (as in freedom), and as this XKCD points out, you can still be a criminal with legally acquired media.

    Bonus: Check out Kyle Park if you get a chance.

    2 great finds on saturday night

    Jan 5, 2009, 1:49 pm by John

    This past saturday night i got the pleasure of find 2 things that i love. a new band and a new music hall. i call it a music hall, though it is basically a long skinny store with a bar down the length of 1 wall.

    the band is "Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers" and the music hall is "the continental club" in downtown houston.

    mr. stiverson and i have had many conversations about what various bands were lacking. i think, he will correct me if i'm wrong, we've decided that most bands need a double bass, an steel guitar, or a fiddle. add in the drums and you have "Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers." I don't believe i had ever seen a country band that lacked an electric guitar but these guys didn't need one.

    To add to the great band, who all knew how to play their instruments well, Miss leslie is a singer song writer, which is always the best. they did, however, cover some songs including johnny bush's "green snakes on the ceiling" and some patsy cline. they were definitely a texas swing band much like "asleep at the wheel." this makes their songs more difficult to dance to but perfect for just having a drink with some friends and listening to. despite this, there were several couples dancing in the small area in front of the stage.

    the other great part of the evening was going to "the continental club." this place looks straight out of the 1960s, complete with shlitz in a can and lonestar on tap! i knew this place was going to be good when i walked in and saw that neon light fixtures, not neon light beer signs or any of that jazz, but actual fixtures made up the lighting of the whole place. to top it off they had some locals in the back with fresh cajun food. i didn't have any but looked and smelled delicious.

    i had a very pleasant evening listening to some texas swing in one of the places, it appeared, where it was born. be sure to look up "miss leslie" and "the continental club," they won't disappoint.

    Edit: I originally posted that the band had an electric guitar. It is actually a steel guitar. It's not easy to mix them up and I don't know what I was thinking. The band consisted of a steel guitar, double bass, fiddle and drums! Most excellent!

    Próspero Año

    Jan 1, 2009, 9:39 pm by Lew

    Happy New Year y'all. 2008 was quite a year it had big ups and downs but the ups were truly great and the downs manageable. 2009 will be guaranteed to be awesome as I get married this year. The fiancee and I enjoyed drinks and fireworks for new year's eve. We had noodles for dinner tonight as a tip of the hat to chinese new year, long new noodles long life. I took a swim in Barton Springs pool to start the new year and it was glorious. I skipped (slept through) the morning dunk most swimmers take and went after dark. There were only a couple people there, the water was crystal clear even in the darkness. I could see some large-ish fish swimming and all the plants on the bottom. There were stars out (almost as much as the east austin sky), the zilker tree was still up, and the towers were glowing across the river. I put on a pot of black-eyed peas and ate a small bowl of them when I got home. I don't know the origin of that new years tradition but as long as I remember I have had them every new years. Should be a lucky and prosperous year amiright?


    Dec 28, 2008, 9:29 am by Paul Stiverson

    When I left the house on Saturday to get lunch I noticed that the driver’s side rear-door window of my car had been broken, and that the contents of my vehicle were in disarray. The stereo was gone and the contents of the glove box were spilled out on the floor. At 11:04AM I called the College Station Police’s non-emergency line, and was told to wait for an officer to arrive. A speedy 38 minutes elapsed before officer Brown showed up to collect all the details, we went through the regular crap, he dusted the car for fingerprints (I have to admit, I am a little surprised about that). Once I was able to look inside I confirmed that the stereo was indeed gone, and that my iPod—which was connected to the stereo—was also gone. All said about $500 worth of stuff taken, and $200 worth of damage done.

    It seems to me that there are a class of products aimed at car-theft prevention, but very few aimed at car-thief apprehension, and it seems quite feasible to tailor make products specifically aimed at catching and convicting petty criminals. These, of course, wouldn’t be terribly effective at preventing the crime from taking place, but at preventing future crime from taking place by removing criminals from the streets.

    Of course the most effective way to stop criminal activity would be to effectively rehabilitate criminals already in the prison system, let them gain some value to the workforce while in prison and then once they are out facilitate the job search. The way to stop criminal activity before it starts is to effectively educate all young people (even if just a vocation) in order to give them options. It is my sincere belief—and I’m sure I’ll catch some flack for this—that thieves aren’t stealing because they necessarily want to, but instead because it is the most lucrative option they have (or because they had a role model who felt that way). Start opening positions that offer a living wage, and offer an available alternative to a life of crime; this has been proven to improve impoverished areas.

    On a happier note, I finished writing the first draft of my thesis.

      planet blu-ray

      Dec 27, 2008, 1:29 am by Lew

      that's sir david I learned two things recently. The first is that blu-ray is totally worth it and that if you are making a documentary you either need to have someone who speaks English with an accent or you need James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. There are no other Americans who can narrate for a damn. I got a blu-ray player for Christmas and the planet earth bbc discs. The difference is amazing. I did not think the vhs to dvd jump was a big deal, the picture is comparable. Watching a wolf take down a caribou in hd is amazing. I like nature films and this is the best non-Jacques Cousteau series I have seen. Cousteau may lack hd but the weird places he went and the drama he brings more than makes up for it. Now if they could do his movies on blu-ray I would probably sell a testicle to see them. This tangents to my other point. David Attenborough narrates planet earth. I watched a (regular def) documentary by Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) and it was good. But it was narrated by just regular American dude. Why the hell didn’t Jean-Michel narrate? He is franco-american he was born to narrate. Documentaries either need the authenticity and exotic quality of accented English or the gravity of james earl jones, otherwise it just footage of outside with dudes chattering.

      Merry Holiday

      Dec 25, 2008, 10:46 pm by Lew

      to be young and unibrowedMerry Holiday all you good boys and girls that matter.

      grinds my gears

      Dec 19, 2008, 6:22 pm by Lew

      I cannot affect these larger world happening but they are bothering me. Hperhaps this post will have a butterfly effect. December 25 is not "holiday" it is christmas. saying the name of the holiday is not offensive. it is more offensive to me to act like a p.c. wimp than it is to make a reference to the holiday. it is an insult and a lie to go so out of the way to say "holiday" instead of christmas.

      Caroline Kennedy can be the new york senator if she wants and can convince the governor. she is not the liberal sarah palin. she has never held elected office but neither had hillary clinton and she was elected. if caroline kennedy ran she would certainly win so just give her the seat if she wants it and let her defend it in 2010. stop whinning that she is acting entitled, everyone who wants to be appointed thinks they are entitled.

      yes pastor rick warren is opposed to gay marriage and a pro-lifer. that is because he is a pastor. you would be hard pressed to find many pastors who aren't. a pastor is going to deliver the inaugral convocation. he isn't being appointed to the supreme court, he is making a speech and obama in a brilliant politician for asking a very popular, moderate conservative pastor to speak. it is a nice symbol to those who felt left out following the election. just because obama won doesn't mean that the whole country is now the castro neighborhood in san francisco.

      finally, kanye west and most other rappers. rhyming a word with itself is not a rhyme. buy a rhyming dictionary and spend a few more minutes writing your raps!

      On Christianity

      Dec 19, 2008, 4:52 pm by Paul Stiverson

      I’ve considered myself a non-theist (or maybe an atheist) for quite some time now, but I was raised Christian. I had never explored the reasons why I fell from the fold until recently when I was asked seriously (by somebody who I felt deserved an honest response). There are a slew of bullshit reasons that I can give: atrocities performed in the name of Christ, my personal inability to commit to something of that magnitude, my general skepticism, the hive-mind mindset that allows injustices (and ignorance in the sciences) to be perpetuated, the fast and loose (mis)interpretation of scripture which permits the aforementioned injustices to come into existence. I could cite the passing of my father during my childhood, and bitch about the apparent lack of justice and equity in the world as evidence of the lack of a grand creator. I could note that to be a scientist you have to have an open mind—free of preconceived notions of an unseen and unmeasurable force driving the universe. I could say that I’ve never been touched by the hand of god, as so many Christians claim to have experienced. I could point to some mal-developed part of my brain that deals with the spiritual, but all those reasons are flimsy and unimportant. Ultimately I don’t think I have a legitimate reason, I am who I am.

      When people discover that I’m not Christian (at least here in College Station) there is often a palpable shift in their body language, as if—since I’m not in their club—I’m suddenly an immoral person. It has always bothered me that religious folks associate morality with religion, as if god is the only thing that can stop a person from acting out all of their wildest impulses. As if god stops you from being pure id. The only thing god provides—in the arena of self-control, and in my experience—is a place to put all the regret you feel for doing whatever bad things you do, he lets you cop out of your sins, he forgives you so you can forgive yourself. The beautiful thing about not believing in god is that you have to be responsible for yourself and your actions. I don’t have the luxury of asking anybody for forgiveness other than the person I may have wronged, the regret for past transgressions has nowhere to go but toward stopping me from repeating my mistakes.

      All that being said, I do think that religious teachings have a place, the Bible is an excellent document for teaching people how to live well. It tells you not to be a bastard, and illustrates past bastards who were punished for their bastardy ways. The rub is that people don’t just take away the lessons, they get all manner of byproducts that end up diluting the important lessons. Jesus’ teachings are absolutely right on, he told his followers that they needed to go further than not being bad, but indeed, to be good. Love you neighbor, don’t judge people, and that the wonder of life doesn’t reside in the material. These teachings should not be neglected, they should be celebrated and followed in their purest form. The circumstances of his life (and the afterlife in general) are insignificant compared to his words, and you don’t have to believe that Jesus was the messiah (or the son of the messiah, or anything else special)—or even believe that he actually existed—to benefit from the quality of the teachings.

      power to the proletariat

      Dec 19, 2008, 3:14 pm by Lew

      At my work like many other business places things have been tougher over the last few months. There seems to be new bad news trickling down from our corporate parents every couple of weeks that results in us getting it in the shorts. At first everyone is pissed when a new piece of bad news falls in our laps. We are outraged then the next next everyone shrugs, says “at least we have jobs” puts their nose down and gets back to work. That is b.s. in my view. I think the higher ups are fully aware of this average reaction to bad news and are using the situation to chip away at their commitments to the employees while we are vulnerable. There is not much confidence in the economy right now but truly not much has changed from a few months ago. People are still making stuff and selling it to other people. The attitude has changed, working folks feel vulnerable and can be bullied a little bit without putting up a fight. I am new to the work force, but I am sure this method of peeling back wages and benefits is nothing new. It disturbs me to see this corporate reality and makes me wonder what is being done to people elsewhere who are more vulnerable who don't deserve to be pushed around.

      please note that I am equally incensed by dumbass employees who bitch about everything the benefits they think they deserve when they haven't done anything to earn it. Working at a business is very different than anything I have done before and is quite eye opening. It make academia seem removed. Everything is about profit of course, that is obvious. But in a company people are forced together and have to invent a culture that lets them get along. Maybe some companies pick people with a culture in mind, but large ones like mine just need qualified people. Give the surveillance tapes to a sociologist (or better yet a primate zoologist) and I bet we could learn a lot about human animal behavior.

      community partay!

      faith in austin destroyed

      Dec 13, 2008, 7:42 pm by Zach

      Just when I was starting to think that my neighborhood wasn't all bad, it went and pissed me off today. This afternoon, as I was on my way to the Verizon store to buy a new phone, I saw a really old lady in an electric wheelchair in the middle of an intersection (at 6th and Chic�³n, for those interested), waving her arms. The chair was obviously out of juice and people just kept driving around her. I parked my car at a goddamn art gallery and went to see if she needed help. Her chair was in fact broken, so I pushed her all the way home on 5th and a few blocks west. Little known fact: electric wheelchairs weigh as much as one and a half Honda Civics.

      1. Fucking yuppie motherfuckers driving their goddamn Priuses around a goddamn old lady STUCK in the MIDDLE of a goddamn INTERSECTION. Fuck you, dickbags. If you can't help your neighbors, get the fuck out. They come here, buy $250,000 condos, raise property taxes out the wazoo, and shit all over their neighbors. Fuck your art galleries. Fuck your condos. Fuck you.

      2. The lady was gracious and told me thank you and bless you and whatnot, but her (presumable) daughter just stood there smoking a cigarette on the stoop. Didn't say thank you or fuck you or anything and didn't offer me a glass of water or anything even though I was panting. I just walked away.

      I didn't do it expecting a thank you, but you'd think that's common courtesy. The old lady was very gracious, which was all that was necessary, but you'd think the daughter would be gracious...at least a little. This post was not to tell everyone what a good samaritan I am, as I was just doing my duty and helping a fellow Texan. Why nobody else in the neighborhood thought this was a priority is beyond me. I am at a loss for words.

      Wild Tales

      Dec 9, 2008, 3:38 pm by Paul Stiverson

      Foreword: I am writing this review about 35 years late… better late than never.

      Over the summer I started listening to Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young)), I bought his first solo album Songs for Beginners and was quite impressed. After hearing several of the tracks off his second album Wild Tales I decided to purchase it too. WOW. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is probably the best album I have ever heard, from top to bottom it is a powerhouse of songwriting and lyricism. Each of the ten tracks is strong enough to be a single—one of them, “You’ll never be the same”, would have been quite comfortable on a country station.

      “Prison Song” is a protest of drug laws, pointing out the inconsistencies of sentencing in different states. He offers two stories of people sent to jail for buying or selling marijuana (presumably), and notes the bias of judgments due to the offenders’ wealth: “There’s not a rich man there who couldn’t pay his way, and buy the freedom that’s a high price for the poor”. The harmonica makes gives the song a bluesy, in prison feel. “And So It Goes” tries to capture the common bond that we all share (in a very abstract hippie kind of way)—“We are loved and we are lonely, we are many, we are few; make it out of love and build a dream”.

      “Oh! Camil”, my favorite track, is spirited waltz, although not one meant for dancing. It is a song for returning soldiers and their stories: “When you tell me your story are you making amends for all the hatred you saw? Will you tell all the people about the people who cry out for God, not for country or war?” “On the Line” is written with an interesting rhyme scheme, just about every line in each of the verses rhymes, it reminds me of “There’s Only One” from Songs for Beginners. The closing track, “Another Sleep Song”1, is gentle and hypnotic, a plea to be awaken.

      Buy this album, you will not be disappointed.


      1. On his first album there was a track called “Sleep Song”, I don’t think the subject matter carries over, but it could have been written for the same person, who knows.

      flu vaccine II

      Dec 9, 2008, 2:15 pm by Lew

      Here is a nice citation about mass flu vaccination Over the last seven years Ontario gave free influenza vaccinations to everyone over 6 months old. The rest of Canada, like the USA, continued population targeted vaccinations. In Ontario the number of influenza related deaths and hospital visits went down dramatically compared to the rest of the country.

      The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use

      The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal

      vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual

      burden of influenza.

      I can't find the link but the cdc is adding people 6 months to 18 years old to the targeted vaccination group. Not because they are vulnerable but because school children are a major vector pool for influenza.

      a brief note on neckwear, pt. 1

      Dec 7, 2008, 9:15 pm by Zach

      windsor knotI've noticed that almost none of the male teachers at my school wear ties. I can only recall seeing one teacher wear one, and usually only the principal and AP's wear them. I firmly believe that when you dress nicer, you will perform better and be perceived as being more professional. I think part of the problem with my low-performing, academically unacceptable school is that the teachers take no pride in their work and it shows in their dress. Casual Friday, at least at my school, now means bluejeans, any grungy old t-shirt, and flip flops. (On Fridays, I wear whatever I would wear every other day of the week, but with jeans in place of slacks.) In an effort to look more professional at school and to get the principals' attention, I've started wearing ties, and it's working. The students are slightly more respectful, teachers have told me how nice I look and the principals now say good morning to me.

      I only have a handful of modern, fashionable ties, but slowly making my collection larger. Good ties cost as much or more than a good shirt, but can be well worth the cost. Your tie should be darker than your shirt and should have similar colors, unless you're wearing a solid white or light colored shirt, in which case your tie can be almost any color. Note how the tie in the photo picks up the gold lines on the shirt. Current fashion dictates that your tie be patterned and not solid. The monochrome look went out in the early 2000s, but go ahead and hang onto those ties as they'll likely become fashionable again in 10-15 years. Patterns may be like the one shown here (but a little less shiny), or diagonal stripes. You should never wear a tie with images or pictures unless it's to your goofy office holiday party. The tip of your tie should just touch the top of your belt--no longer, no shorter. Your tie should be silk. Wool and polyester ties have not been in fashion for a long time, and hopefully never will be again. Unless you're going in costume as a 70s sleaze, your tie should not be very wide. Unless you're a jazz musician, your tie should not be very thin. A good rule of thumb is that your tie should be as wide as your lapel if you're wearing a jacket, and luckily for you, dear reader, almost all ties sold in stores are of the preferred standard width.

      There are a variety of knots which may be used. The most common is the four-in-hand knot, the one your father likely taught you when you were 12 and attending your first wedding. This knot is good and versatile, but other knots can be more appropriate for certain shirts and situations. In a more formal situation, a half- or full-windsor is more appropriate. The knot in the photo is a full-windsor. It leaves a wide, symmetrical triangle as opposed to the thin, slightly lopsided four-in-hand. This knot also works well for wide collars and for gentlemen of a larger frame, such as myself.

      Bow ties are another option. They should be worn with a tux, obviously, but can also be worn in any other situation which requires a tie, but with discretion. If you're very skinny or very corpulent, a bow tie will only make you look skinnier or fatter. If you choose to wear a bow tie to work, make sure you're the only one in your office or workplace who does. If you can pull of a bow tie, you can be the "bow tie guy", which, when done correctly, allows other people you don't interact with daily to remember who you are. If you can't pull off a bow tie, you will be known as "that guy with a bow tie", who you do not want to be. I'm going to buy a bow tie this week and see if I can pull it off.

      I Guarantee It… Is Crap.

      Dec 5, 2008, 8:54 pm by Paul Stiverson

      I’ve been a customer of Men’s Warehouse for a couple years now, and when I first started patronizing their chain, they tried to peddle me a non-iron shirt. Being a master ironer I declined their offer, as it was intended for a lesser gentleman. In my latest trip I bought two shirts which, due to a lack of options, were non-iron. After wearing them I discovered that despite the “No Ironing Required” advertisement the shirts were interminably wrinkled. Being as I prefer my sleeves to be sharp enough to cut a bitch, I found this to be unacceptable. I broke out the iron and starch and went to town, I quickly found that the starch left the once-white shirt slightly discolored. The discoloration will wash out I’m sure, but then I’ll be back to the problem of limp—and slightly wrinkly—shirts.

      Mark my words, I will not buy another non-iron shirt, and thus I will not be shopping at Men’s Warehouse until they start carrying real mens shirts.


      Dec 5, 2008, 8:35 pm by Lew

      Poasting from my Ubuntu powered laptop! Like it so far. It is much faster than before I accidentally deleted XP. It is a lot smarter than windows. It seems much more solid and well made, and I always considered xp to be a solid os.

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