Friday, November 30, 2007

Hmm...

NOW CASTING ARTISTS, SCIENTISTS, ENGINEERS, ARCHITECTS and DESIGNERS FOR DISCOVERY CHANNELS SUPER RUBES - RealityWanted.com Casting Calls: "We are looking for fun, interesting, charismatic and outgoing individuals of all ethnicities and types 25-39 years old to comprise a diverse team of people who are involved in engineering/building: This means architects, engineers, scientists, pyro-technicians, art directors/designers, even professors or hobbyists who are simply passionate about these topics. We don't need an expert in every area, just someone who loves to design and build.

The team should be a mix of a skills, a mix of personality types, and have a playful, funny camaraderie—so if there are existing teams out there, all the better, or if couples/triples have worked together and want to present themselves as the start of a team—we are open to that too."

Just Not That Simple

Today I found myself listening to Rush Limbaugh in the car again. I don't know why. Often I enjoy the show although I rarely if ever agree with the substance. Most of the time I wind up thinking "well, ok, yes, except it just isn't that simple." I hope, but I am pessimistic that the rest of the audience hears it like that too. This is a perfect example.

On todays show at one point he started reading an alphabetical list of things that have been attributed to global warming. He found this guy who has a website with links to over 600 individual things that have at one time or another been "blamed" on global warming.

Right off he presents it as if the sheer volume of things being discussed should indicate that the idea is just being treated as a catch-all for anything anyone sees going wrong - and therefore isn't as significant as it might be. Alternately you are lead to believe that "advocates" of global warming theory are so anxious to validate the idea that they will put it forth as a reason for almost anything.

I have to say that if something as fundamental as the average temperature of our planet was changing I would have no trouble at all believing that as many as 600 million individual things would change. The planetary ecosystem is mindbogglingly complicated and interdependent. We've only found 600 things to attribute to global warming? I don't think we're looking hard enough. To say that 600 individual items is some kind of hysteria is ignorant.

I guess the second bit could be true, except it doesn't need to be. Really I don't think there are global warming advocates. There are legit scientists, there are political and industry naysayers, and then there are many of us trying to beat back the latter. Proponents don't need to make a case, they have the science.

But this is just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg - so to speak (that's actually very Rush-like. I wonder if he's used it).

Really why he was reading it was so he could recite many items that sounded obviously contradictory: "Ocean salinity decreasing" followed by "Ocean salinity increasing" and the like. This is supposed to make us think that if the hysterical Goreian troops are including things on both sides of an outcome that the underlying idea must in fact be false - because the argument is ridiculous. "Avalanches reduced, Avalanches increased." How is it possible that global warming is causing avalanches to both increase and decrease? They must be nuts! "Bananas destroyed, bananas grow." Come on Algore, you can't have it both ways!

Poppycock. Facile. Ignorant.

How could it be both? Perhaps, Rush, the Earth is large. Just a guess.

Maybe in some places, under some circumstances in some models the ocean salinity is increasing where in others it is decreasing - and maybe in both cases it is due to global climate change.

And herein really is the problem, and it isn't confined to Rush Limbaugh but really exists in most media short of PBS (and I would also say applies to social issues as well to natural science). Media today doesn't do anything. Mostly they reference other media and then talk about it, most times without reading it, never after having vetted it, and never with enough time or civility for any nuance. It's not enough to read a list of article subjects and expect that it makes an informed statement about a complicated subject. In this case, it wouldn't likely even be enough to read each of the actual articles as they were news and commentary, not publications in science journals. You cannot discuss and you really cannot debate something as complicated as global climate change in sound bites, let alone second hand referencing of sound bites. First off, not everyone who produces a sound bite is informed. Statements have to be checked, just repeating them often doesn't make them right, just familiar. And second, even if the source material is good, the subject is just too complex for a "rant."

Why is this what we get? Unfortunately I think its because its what we want. Programming outlets program what is popular. Rush Limbaugh's brand of discourse is staggeringly popular. "Nova" and "Frontline" don't compete - even if they are obviously more reputable on the facts. People would rather listen to a 5 minute Limbaugh rant about how libs are unfairly stigmatizing "Intelligent Design" rather than watch a two hour exhaustive Nova episode about how Christian Fundamentalists are manufacturing it in order to circumvent court rulings and how a George W. Bush appointed judge ruled it just isn't science at all. Sad, but true.

But then I just did a 5 minute rant about the complexity of issues. Would you watch the Frontline if they made it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Just Love Her To Death

But I am not sure how much this will help...

Myspace.com Blogs - Important Message From Melissa - Melissa Etheridge MySpace Blog: "I want to talk about a good friend of mine who is the only candidate for President of the United States that I support: Dennis Kucinich. Dennis is the only candidate running for President who supports full marriage equality rights. He's also the only candidate who has consistently voted against the War in Iraq. His plan for universal single-payer not-for-profit health care also stands out as the only plan that does not funnel money into huge corporate health insurance companies. I could go on and on about why I feel Dennis is the best candidate, but you get the picture."

Tomorrow It Will Just Look Like a Shutout

Who cares if it was 0-0 for nearly the entire game? Who cares if they couldn't run against the worst defense in the league? Who cares if Ben got sacked a boatload of times - again?

A win is a win.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

So I guess everyone who has a blog is supposed to do a Thanksgiving post. I can't recall if I have done one before. Seems likely.

What am I thankful for?

The presence and health of all the people around me, from my wonderful wife, my family and her family, and all of my friends and co-workers and students. Even in the face of some illnesses, I am still thankful to have all of these people.

My home and my work and my pets and all the other things that make my life my life.

Mostly I think I am thankful that nearly all the things I consider to be problems would to nearly all the people in the world consider not to be problems at all. I think maybe we lose perspective and forget that there are millions of people in the world that would just love to be faced with our problems.

For many people today the biggest problem in their life will be that their cable carrier doesn't have the Colts game.

Maybe we all ought to be thankful for the problems in our lives.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Meltdown

So little blogging these days. I spend all my time grabbing strike articles for the other page.

I just thought I would take a moment to ask the world at large what the heck is the Steelers problem on the opponent's last possession? Really guys, it's ok, you don't have to make it interesting. It'd be fine by all of us if you just kept on the stifling defense we've been watching for the whole second half - peachy.

Except, now for two weeks in a row the stiff play just seems to abruptly come to a halt just as the game is coming to an end. If they could manage one more series it would be fine, but for some reason teams that hadn't been able to string together five plays, quarterbacks without a completion for the entire half, offensive squads without a first down in memory just seem to march right down the field into kicking range.

Last week we dodged a bullet. But for a careless penalty the results could have been the same as today.

Oh wait, that reminds me, it's not just the defense, its the kicking coverage too. That's where the last minute nightmare begins, giving the opponent the decent field position they need to dig in and start their final drive.

Please guys, the game is four full quarters. Kick coverage has to go all the way to the end. Inspired defense needs to go all the way to the end. Exciting finishes are all well and good, but I think most fans in Pittsburgh would opt for something a little more boring that resulted in a win.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sunset

I took this picture with my phone that isn't a camera. I think it's pretty cool:


The fall sunsets in Pittsbugh are pretty nice, yes?

Ellipses...

It's my Dad's birthday, well still his birthday in the central timezone. Happy birthday Dad!!! I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I think I might actually like Guys & Dolls... Nice to see GW veto some more decent legislation. This way he'll still be able to complain they aren't working on the hill... Make sure to get your vote in on the caption contest... Really I don't think federal funding for higher education should in any way be tied to a school's cooperativeness in litigation on behalf of the RIAA or MPAA. That can't be within any school's mission... There hasn't been a lot of posting here lately. When that happens, there's nearly always something new here or here or here... Mrs. TANBI now has a "street" name: 2Cold... Really I don't think I've much noticed the WGA strike in practice. Maybe The Daily Show... I was once again recently, officially reminded I am an asshat. Truthfully I can do without the reminders. I am aware... Do you think if the IA strike goes through Xmas that the producers will keep them out through The Tony's? Will there be a Tony's? Inquiring bystanders want to know... If you have, or know of a 1930's era stake-bed or dump truck we could buy here at school, please let me know. My students will thank you... I do still love The New Yankee Workshop. I can't really tell if I am going to take to Woodworks... The cats won't consolidate to one litter box. Now we have to decide if we want to invest in another Litter Robot... Did you know Lebron James was "L-Train?" I didn't. Sounds like he should play in Chicago instead of Cleveland... Somehow I find myself on two rather high profile committees at work (and a third, smaller one). I am uncertain this falls under "no rest for the weary" or "no good deed goes unpunished"... I miss playing Ultimate, and playing Euchre... Wouldn't it be cool if the 14-0 Patriots meet the 0-14 Dolphins and the Dolphins win? The Bears fan in me really wants that to happen, although the Steelers fan in me would rather the Patriots are 13-1 at that point...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Caption Contest

Ok, submissions are closed. Let the voting begin!

Answer in the poll above. Winner (if they identify themself) gets a TANBI T-Shirt.

I wonder if I should vote for me...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Modest Proposal

WorldWatch - October 28, 2007 - Civilized Religion - The Ornery American: "it is time for is to stop extending the protection of the Constitution to those who, under the guise of religion, are actively promoting the right to deprive Americans of their civil rights"

DO IT NOW

Best Science Blog - The 2007 Weblog Awards

Right now go to this page and vote for the Bad Astronomy Blog.

Why? This is why: Think Progress » Right Wing Campaigns To Get Climate Skeptic’s Blog Named ‘Best Science Blog’ In Weblog Awards

Monday, November 05, 2007

Caption Contest

Enter by comment for one week.
Winning entrant to be selected by community poll.
Winner gets a TANBI T-Shirt.

See my entry HERE

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Lethal Force

Lately I've been thinking a little bit about the use of lethal force. The thought process starts with the use of "contractors" in Iraq. For quite a while I haven't understood why in the midst of this invasion and occupation we've chosen to fill any roles at all with non-military personnel. All the happy go lucky TV shows about WWII always show security, construction, transportation, and hospitality being carried out by military outfits. Really the only thing I can think of that wasn't that way would be entertainment - the USO. This I guess was part of the big Rumsfeld reorganization of the Pentagon, taking anything not central to the mission and outsourcing it.

In principle I guess I can get behind a lot of that. Maybe it makes sense to use FedEx to deliver mail or some such thing - at least TO the warzone, if not IN the warzone. But I start to have difficulty when we get to "security contractors."

Really it seems like when you put a gun in a contractors hands you've broken a covenant of some type. I have real difficulty believing that any independent body like that ought to have the authority to take a life. At least when we talk about capital punishment, the authority to terminate a life comes from the people. That kind of responsibility should not be something that can be "outsourced." If there are people in a foriegn country that in the course of their work may be called upon to kill another human being - that person ought to be a direct government employee, not an independent agent. I do not believe any government has the authority to vest another organization with the right to kill.

The action of taking a life is special enough to require civilian oversight and popular authorization. If we're going to be killing people it ought not be as part of the use of anyone's discretionary budget. The question ought to come before the Congress, specifically. And the people pulling the trigger ought to be directly answerable to the military chain of command and everything that comes with it. This sort of thing wouldn't guarantee that poor decisions aren't made, certainly there are problems with governmental "deciders" as well as commercial ones, but I think this falls under the notion of "the merest appearance of impropriety."

The use of security contractors is I believe the only thing that keeps the motor on the current war going. We don't have the personnel we'd need to keep it in the military and the cause isn't united enough to support a draft - at least not for long. By going the route of private contractors the administration has given itself the ability to wage a war not supported by the nation.

I know people will say "if the Congress doesn't want the war they can defund it" but we all know that while that simple it isn't really that simple. Politics makes for some strange decisions sometimes. As bad as it is I guess our representatives currently value their gigs more than the lives of the soldiers in the field, believing that ending the conflict would also likely be professional suicide. At some point I guess it might get bad enough that the calculus there could change, or maybe enough regular people would really be touched by the war to have some kind of general strike - a protest that would really sting. But really, the structure in place allowed the powers that be to work us into a crack from which we can't extricate ourselves without more personal pain then we're seeing on TV.

We owe it to ourselves to make sure we're not made to make these choices again. At the first opportunity we should make it illegal for the United States to hire private military replacements. That way, in the future if we're all in we're all in. We won't have the opportunity to turn our very real pain into financial pain, and deferred financial pain at that.

Killing people just ought not be so easy.

OK, I'll Stop Reading There...

:: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (xhtml): "Sidney Lumet's 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' is such a superb crime melodrama that I almost want to leave it at that. To just stop writing right now and advise you to go out and see it as soon as you can. I so much want to avoid revealing plot points that I don't even want to risk my usual strategy of oblique hints. You deserve to walk into this one cold."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Good Luck Red!

Urban Challenge Bots Ready to Race Tomorrow | Danger Room from Wired.com: "The robot cars--all stock vehicles outfitted with laser range finders, cameras and other sensors, and crammed full of computers--will line up on the starting line early tomorrow morning, and take off at 8:00 a.m. on perhaps the strangest auto race ever."