Mailing lists are stupid and so are those who use them

April 8, 2014

My mother-in-law and father-in-law died three years ago and never lived at my wife’s and my address.  For the past three year we have been receiving catalogs and flyers for them at this address.  Whenever I hear some dimwit criticize the government as inefficient and incompetent and, instead, praise the dimwits of corporate America, I think of all the mail I have put straight into the recycling bin in the past three years.  By the way, we also get a lot of catalogs and flyers for the people who left this address eight years ago.

We are not an isolated circumstance.  In fact, I would guess that you could multiply the wasteful mail sent here by millions of homes in America.  I wonder if anyone has done any research to determine how many tens or even hundreds of millions of wasteful mailings are done every year due to mailing lists, and how many dollars are wasted on printing, paper, and paid to these useless mailing list companies to send out garbage.

Dimwits degrade the quality of life for everyone.


The Super Bowl Coke Ad

February 4, 2014

Didn’t see it or any of the other ads.  Just because the media has created a big thing about commercials doesn’t mean I have to be an idiot and watch commercials as if they matter.  When a commercial is played, I usually mute the TV and go back to doing whatever else I was doing.  However, I have read enough about the ad to know what it is about.

Prior to Europeans arriving in significant numbers in the North American continent, Americans spoke Algonquin and Lakota and a variety of languages.  The first and best documented Europeans to arrive here spoke Spanish mostly, I would imagine, as Columbus, an Italian, left from Spain for the New World.  He made four such voyages.  He would have spoken Italian as well as Spanish.  Most of the early settlement of the North American continent was Spanish and the explorers spoke Spanish.  In fact, the first English-speaking settlement in the New World didn’t take place until well over a hundred years after the Spanish explorers had exploited the place.  There was also earlier exploration by Vikings, though I can’t recall if they were Swedes or Norwegians.  They would have spoken a Scandinavian language.

Anyway, the manufactured outrage over the commercial is, of course, childish nonsense being offered by childish people who are so accustomed to being outraged by any and everything that I can’t imagine how they get through a day without spitting up quarts of bile.  I find the whole “controversy” to be the dreary work of dullards stirring up yet more dullards over nothing at all.  I would pity the dullards, but they aren’t worth the effort.

Performance Enhancing Drugs: Legalize Them

January 31, 2014

For many years I have indulged myself in a little joke.  My joke went like this:  “When I sit down to watch a sports event, I want to see the best athletic performances possible, and that means performance enhancing drugs.  Steroids should not be illegal; they should be mandatory.  Steroids:  make ‘em take ‘em.”

I was being facetious of course, and would never advocate the consumption of any drug against someone’s will, especially a drug that has been associated with side effects like cancer.  But all the while, in the midst of my joke, I was aware that a part of me thought there was really nothing wrong with using PEDs.  I have now a formal argument on the subject in support of permitting athletes who are informed of the risks to use PEDs in order to enhance their athletic performances.

Here is my most, in my opinion, compelling argument, which I place first.  Suppose someone came up with a drug that would enhance intellect.  Suppose that using this drug also carried with it a chance that someone might get a brain cancer.  In fact, the risk is quantifiable and 1 out of every 28 would contract a rare brain cancer that had a 63% chance of killing the patient within eight years.  Now suppose I, fully aware of the dangers of this drug, used it.  My IQ, as measured when I was in grammar school, is 128 (above average, but not especially inspiring…and I am amused that it is higher than Richard Feynman’s, since I couldn’t do high school math at this point and Feynman was a genius).  Suppose, after taking these drugs, I was able to learn all of the math necessary to earn a doctorate in Physics and, within two years after beginning this course of drugs, I discovered the source of Dark Matter, which turned out to be the gravitational affect of nearby universes, and I even figured out a way to test the hypothesis and then determined that we live in a multiverse and so on.  And then I won a Nobel Prize in Physics.  All of this happened within two years.  Now Feynman and all of the other Nobel laureates had never taken this drug.  They accomplished their great achievements with no more assistance than pens and paper.  Should I give back the Nobel Prize?  Should I never receive it because my brain, and it was my own brain and no other, accomplished its feat with the aid of drugs?  But what if I didn’t use intelligence-enhancing drugs?  What if I used an anti-cancer drug that allowed me to live an extra year, during which I was able to make the same discoveries?  Should I give back the prize then (you’d have to dig me up and pry the medal from my cold, dead hands, because if I ever won a Nobel, you can bet I’d want that in the coffin with me)?  Suppose I used no drugs but a computer was essential to my efforts?  Should I give it up then?  After all, it wasn’t really me doing all that math.  Without that computer I would have had to do the calculations with a pencil and paper, and so I might have been the second one to get to the goal because someone who was faster than me at math would have beaten me to the answer.

I hope that you see my point:  the drugs may enhance the performance, but it is the accomplishment that wins the prize.  In the world of sports, if you hit 80 home runs in one year, you still had to hit 80 home runs in a single year.  Yes, you were helped by an improvement in your physique via PEDs, but what of it?  I guarantee that Babe Ruth, when he hit his 60 home runs, had some sort of injury during the year and medical science helped him overcome it.  Maybe he took aspirin to get over a hangover (aspirin was first synthesized in 1897).  That would have to be considered, under those circumstances, a PED.  It allowed the Babe to feel good enough to hit a home run that day.  What is the qualitative difference between one drug that improves performance and another?

Let’s talk technology, since I brought it up with the mention of computers.  Technological improvements in sports are all over the place.  Compare the times for competitive swimmers now and fifty years ago.  Now they use swimsuits designed to lower friction.  Should those be banned?  Should you only be allowed to hold a World Record in the 100 meter backstroke if you wear a cotton swimsuit?  Should all the records that have been set since modern players got trainers and whirlpools be thrown out?  After all, trainers are using the most current technology to help their clients.

Let’s take the analogies even further.  If your argument that a PED gives a player an unfair advantage, so does having a better coach, a better trainer, a better anything.  Maybe all athletes should be made to train in isolation; nobody may help them and they’ll just have to compete naked in order to eliminate any and all differences but the fundamental skills of each.

Once you examine the arguments against PEDs and look at them in the light of these analogies, I think the matter becomes significantly clearer.  PEDs are no different than drugs taken to get over an injury and help provided by technology or coaches or trainers.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves:  PEDs improve performance and the bottom line in a competitive athletic endeavor is that the best performance is the one that wins, just like the best work in a particular field wins the Nobel that year.  It shouldn’t matter that three-quarters of the league took PEDs, and you were one of them, the year you hit 80 home runs.  You hit them.  You did it.  You hot more home runs than anyone had ever hit in a single season before.  The drug didn’t hit them.  The drug made you stronger, but you still had to hit them.  If you can’t use PEDs to play a competitive sport, then maybe they should ban glasses from players with weak eyes.  After all, they give the player better eyesight, but they are an artificial means of doing so.

(And seriously, if I ever won a Nobel Prize for anything, I’d wear that medal everywhere I went.  I’d go ride buses when I didn’t even have to go where the bus would take me just so I could tell strangers, “See this?  It’s a Nobel Prize and it’s mine.”  Which reminds me of the joke about the 85 year old Jewish man who went into a church and insisted that the priest hear his confession.  When the priest finally agreed, the old man told him he had just had sex with a 19 year old woman.  When the priest asked him why he was telling him this, the old man said, “Telling you?  I’m telling EVERYBODY!”)

Quantum Gravity, Cyclic Universe

January 30, 2014

So I was watching Dr. Paul J. Steinhardt talk about the Big Bang and alternative theories and the Cyclic Universe and so on, which, as an aside, also explained to me why extra dimensions become necessary in string theory, and it occurred to me that, if inflation is an affect of Dark Matter rather than an affect of Dark Energy (my idea being that, because Dark Matter is only perceived via its gravitational effects, so it is not actually present in our universe, but in nearby universes that are causing the inflation by virtue of their gravity warping a sort of uber fabric of space-time and the edges of our universe are falling into their gravity wells as they are simultaneously falling into ours), then if universes are cyclic, this is something that can be tested as their gravities will change as they inflate or shrink.  Although, then again, the period of the inflation and shrinkage would make testing difficult…and also, would the gravity of a universe change as the state changed?  I think he answered that in the lecture but I wasn’t thinking of this when he did.

All so very interesting.

A Tiny Idea About Dark Matter

January 29, 2014

I was watching a video of Dr Neil DeGrasse Tyson discussing physics and he said two things which I have heard him say before, but he said them together, and because of the juxtaposition of his statements, I formed a thought about a connection between the two statements which I have not heard before, although I seriously doubt I came up with something new.  But if one of the 6000 astrophysicists on the planet ever reads this web log, I would appreciate some feedback.

Dr Tyson stated that the universe is expanding at such a rate that at some point in the future, and I forget the precise sequence of events that will occur, it will not be possible for cosmologists on the planet Earth to actually determine the same things we can determine about the universe today because the state of the universe will have changed so much that things like the Big Bang Theory could only be found in textbooks but not be tested experimentally.  So then someone asked another question and he started talking about Dark Matter.  He said that one of the interesting theories about Dark Matter, which is discerned via gravitational effects because there is extra gravity for which we cannot account from visible matter, is actually the gravity of a parallel universe which we cannot discern, but which can be felt through the existence of its gravity since it is close enough by (this could, I suppose be expanded to several universes in the neighborhood, which would be why the amount of Dark Matter is so much greater than the known matter and why we did not simply, if we feel the effects of gravity, fall into the other universe, although the expansion of the universe might just be accounted for because we are falling into the gravity of another universe or universes…it’s all so very complicated and I don’t have the math for the really serious parts of astrophysics).

Okay, so that was too long an explanation, but here is my thought:  maybe Dark Matter is something that could have been explained ten million years ago when Raquel Welch was running from dinosaurs in a fur bikini with , but we have passed the horizon of during which Dark Matter could have been tested and examined and so forth.  This does not explain anything about Dark Matter except why it is untestable and unknown at this time.  The window of opportunity for figuring out what it is has passed.  I’m just curious as to whether that idea has been posited and, as well, whether there is any way to test whether that is true rather than test the nature of Dark Matter.

Auburn v Alabama

December 3, 2013

Funniest football game ending ever.  LMAO.  Wish I had recorded it.  Biggest flaw in the finish to that game:  not enough video of Alabama fans’ reactions.

A word about The Voice

November 25, 2013

The Voice bores me, it’s true, but my dear spouse likes to watch this dreck, so I hear it in the background as I tippy-tap the keys, but tonight I paused in my studies long enough to watch a performance by a young guy named Matthew Schuler.  I must admit that it was entertaining.  Okay, so he has a second-rate voice with a range from C to D, but I have never seen anyone who looked so much like he needed to drop a deuce when he sang and it made for compelling television.  Those squeezed down, squinty eyes and the stress positions just screamed “Potty Break!”  I kept thinking, “Will he dirty his trousers?  Won’t he dirty his trousers?”

Ending the filibuster

November 21, 2013

Good.  If someone keeps abusing a power and it is hurting the country, then you take that power away from them  That’s all it is about.  I refer you to this article.  It’s enough already.  The Republicans discovered this toy during the Clinton administration and they have been banging it hard enough to break it ever since.  The filibuster required responsible use and it is no longer being used responsibly.  Time to take this toy away from the kiddies.  Good on the Senate for doing that.

Parsing out quality with tweezers

October 22, 2013

Thank goodness nobody reads this thing and nobody can tell who I am writing it without a court order.  I am working for a company that is so poorly run, I am only glad that I am a consultant.  In fact, I wouldn’t accept a position with them if they offered it, and than goodness my contract is over soon.

The area in which I work has been plagued by bad quality product, so I was hired to make it good.  Every time I have suggested an improvement, the response has been “what is the benefit and what is the cost”.  They don’t really want good quality.  If you want good quality, you pay for it.  Instead, I have to run a cost-benefit analysis on every idea.  It’s a stupid way to run things when your quality is so low, it is actually the worst I have ever seen in my entire career, and I have been doing what I do for decades.  I can’t believe they gave garbage like this to customers.  I can’t believe customers didn’t throw it back at them and tell them “no thank you”.

Satire married to ignorance is only funny to the ignorant

October 9, 2013

Jon Stewart recently used his Daily Show pulpit to mock the Healthcare Exchanges because of the software issues they’ve been having.  I’ve been working in the software field for decades.  I figured there would be problems because the systems re complex and have to meet a lot of federal regulations and simultaneously integrate with  diverse set of private insurance company web sites.  I mostly like Stewart, but when he mocks things he doesn’t understand, he comes off as a twit.  On that night, he was a big twit.  It’s okay to mock stuff and I get that it’s comedy, but comedy doesn’t have to operate from ignorance.  That makes it dumb comedy, and dumb comedy isn’t funny.