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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kaus Riles

I can't stand Mickey Kaus. So it hurts my feelings that I won't be able to vote against him since I don't live in California. He's running for the Senate to take Barbara Boxer's seat.

He won't win. From what I've read, he doesn't even expect to win. He's just doing it to make a point.

The point being that teacher's unions are destroying schools and illegal immigrants are destroying wages. Read his "Why I Filed to Run" manifesto.
Common sense tells you that when you can't fire bad teachers because their union won't allow it, you'll get bad schools. Common sense tells you that when you keep flooding the labor market with new unskilled workers, wages will deterioriate.
Perhaps...

But common sense also tells me that "bad" teachers are a judgment call. I also think that there are other problems with schools, not just problems with teacher unions, but with uninterested students, uninspired curricula, and unhinged parents who are as lazy as they are stingy.

The other problem with Mickey's assessment is that he equates "illegal immigrants" with "unskilled workers." Granted, illegal immigrants may find themselves working in unskilled jobs, but I think it defies credibility to say that all (or even most) illegal immigrants have no skills.

No, our immigration policies prevent them from using their skills. I also think if we were to liberalize our immigration policies, unskilled jobs would go to unskilled people, not skilled people who find themselves without the necessary paperwork.

But then again, I don't think Mickey Kaus has really thought about these policies that much. He's thought about what he would like to see, and then thought of ways to put that in the proper light, but he's stopped thinking critically about them a long time ago.

If we suddenly woke up in a world where teacher's unions did not exist, you would probably find Mickey Kaus still railing against them. Because that's just the type of guy he is.

Wikipedia

I'm an unabashed fan of Wikipedia. I've said it before and I'll say it again. No, I'm not concerned about the accuracy of the articles. Bad facts don't last long before they're corrected by someone who knows better.

The most valuable thing about Wikipedia, I think, is the connections you can make between disparate thoughts. Unlike a normal encyclopedia, which is arranged in a linear, alphabetic way, Wikipedia can take you anywhere from anywhere.

Just last night I was reading about NASCAR, specifically about that crash a few weeks ago that everyone is talking about. I don't follow NASCAR at all, but after reading about the crash, I wanted to look up some of the people who have been killed in a race.

Next thing you know I'm reading about restrictor plates and superspeedway design. I could have kept going deeper into an infinite tube of information, but I had to go to bed.

DougJ from Balloon Juice points out another benefit that I never really considered. He writes:
If enough sufficiently determined hacks and nuts wanted to, they could stick a lot of anti-evolution supply side nonsense into various Wiki articles (for all I know, they have already). But the Wiki model strikes me as potentially robust in a way that commercial media is not. There are no editors to pressure per se, no advertising dollars to pull, and of course, the thing isn’t owned by General Electric or Disney.
Thank God.

I Just Realized...

Next week I'll be working 7 days straight. I'm gonna have to talk to the boss about that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh Great

DUI checkpoints are going into place this weekend for St. Patty's day. So when I'm driving home tonight after 10PM, I'm going to have to look out for the State Patrol.

Again.

This kind of annoys me. I don't want you to pull me over because it's St. Patty's weekend and people are out drinking. I want you to pull me over because you have a reason to pull me over.

And no, "It's St. Patty's Day weekend" is not a reason. It's an excuse. And you can bet it's the same one that drunk drivers will be using when they're getting booked for DUIs.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Adam Dutkiewicz, guitarist of Killswitch Engage and sometime producer of other bands, says he wants to produce Metallica's next record, so he can "make them good again."

Now I kind of like Killswitch Engage. They're incredibly heavy with big loud drums and crunchy guitars. Their vocalist can do the screaming banshee thing (which I'm no big fan of, to be truthful) but he can also sing!

But a band needs more than a cool sound. They need good songs. And this is where Killswitch Engage often fails to deliver.

So memo to Adam Dutkiewicz:

Metallica's worst record (probably St. Anger) is much better than Killswitch Engage's best. So if you want to make any band "good again," start with your own.

Allergies

Today's, what, Friday? I can't really tell, since I've been in a Benadryl haze the last couple of days.

Starting Tuesday, almost the second I stepped into the office, my eyes started watering, my nose started running, and a kernel of pain started throbbing behind my left eye. By the end of the night, my nose and lips had been rubbed raw.

Add in some Benadryl and I was as high as a kite and as miserable as a kitty in the rain.

The irony is that I was just bragging last week that I haven't had a cold in at least three years. My theory on that is that the HVAC system we use at work to cool our equipment racks does a pretty good job of filtering the air. Any pathogens I may be exposed to in the course of a day just simply cannot survive my shift. Hence...no infections.

But allergies are a different matter entirely. While the HVAC system is germocidal, it does nothing for the various particles of whatever that my immune system just doesn't like. (I'm thinking it's dust. Perhaps some form of mold? Who knows.) They just swirl around in the air, pissing off my white blood cells and making me sneeze a lot.

Hopefully over the next few days, the offending particles dissipate or my immune system realizes it can chill. Because I've been borderline useless all week and I've got things to do, man!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

In Your Face!

The headline is misleading. Towards the end of this highlight reel, JR Smith pulls off an incredible 360 dunk.

But he didn't do it in anyone's face.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Seed Fail

This commercial might become familiar to viewers of Glenn Beck's train-wreck of a program.

I want to laugh, but I can't stop shaking my head.

The marketing approach is hilarious. Stock up on "non-hybrid" (in other words, heirloom) seeds as a hedge against societal collapse? Awesome!

And if things get bad enough, non-hybrid heirloom seeds could become more valuable than gold or silver! (Yeah, right!)

Add to that this crucial fact: you can't feed a family with a "crisis" garden. A "crisis" farm, maybe...if you have the proper amount of grain, have the means to process it and store it. And if you're willing to spend all day baking bread and still going to bed hungry.

Mr. Pitchman seems to know this, so he's careful to advise that the Survival Seed Bank comes with enough seeds to plant a full acre "crisis garden." An acre being the minimum amount of space you'd need to plant a garden that will become your main source of food. And most of that space would be reserved (if you're smart) for some kind of grain. (I hope the Survival Seed Bank has wheat, rice, and corn. Millet for the beasts of burden would help.)

And where are you going to get all your water? (It seems to me that if we're all going to be living off crisis gardens, using our saved seeds for barter, we're mostly going to be bartering for water. While gold and silver still retain value without being melted down into baubles, seeds are literally nothing more than a speck of grit without water.)

And here's a sad little truth about subsistence farming: It's hard work and very time-consuming. In fact, it might become your primary occupation. Forget about a career, forget about hobbies. Forget about any kind of life that doesn't require that you stoop in the dirt from sunup to sundown.

There's a reason mankind decided (several thousand years ago) that it's better to work together in these matters. Collective agriculture wasn't just integral to our survival as a species, it was integral to the development of civilization itself. It's hard to see how kings and slaves and markets and long-lasting cultures could exist without some kind of acknowledgment that, "Hey, wouldn't this be easier if you grew the wheat, I milled it, and this guy over here brought it to market?"

The answer is YES. The pooling of resources and the division of labor can do some magical things, things that rugged survivalists could never do on their own. (Granted, some of these things are completely useless, like the Pyramids of Giza...but some of them, like the Roman aqueducts, were pretty damn useful.)

But let's not let history repudiate the marketing here. Let's assume that a cache of non-hybrid heirloom seeds are what you want. Why buy them from this guy, selling apocalyptic doom and poor reasoning? Why not buy them from folks --like Burpee or Ferry-Morse-- who have specialized in seed distribution without pandering to conspiracy theorists?

Take the scare-mongering over hybrids. While it's true that you can't save seeds from hybrid plants (they won't grow!), hybrids exist for a reason. They're bred for disease resistance, to produce a certain type of fruit (seedless cukes, anyone?), or in the case of flowers, for interesting looking blooms. They're not going to hurt you. They might even yield more edible produce than your heirloom varieties, which is, after all, what many of them are designed to do.

As for price, in case you were wondering, the Survival Seed Bank is going to cost you $149. Included are 22 packets of seeds, which works out to almost 7 bucks a packet.

Last year, I bought a bunch of seeds from heirloomseeds.com, which looks like a very non-corporate mom-and-pop style operation. Their seeds come in huge packets that cost less than 3 bucks a piece. For the same price as the Seed Survival Bank, I can buy twice as many seeds from Heirloom Seeds and, in theory, up my chances of survival considerably.

Of course, heirloomsees.com is selling heirloom seeds, not apocalyptic clap-trap for the Glenn Beck crowd.