Monday, April 30, 2007

Been around the world and found...

What is it that mediocre people find in eachother? It makes sense that you'll be more likely to hook up with others in your "coolness tier" when at a bar or other social group function, but how is it that these events lead to anything longterm. When you're whispering sweet nothings do you flat out lie, or do you truth? "Listen baby, you kinda don't suck... and I hope you feel the same way about me... I think we should spend more time together." What??? I'm so confused... "Baby, I want to raise children together... do you think they'll get mostly Cs, or do you think they'll take shop class?"

Imagine two shining marks of mediocrity at the altar. The preacher begins the vows. Is this when you really lose all aspirations?
"To have and to hold" ... I got something you can hold
"For better or for worse" ... well, it could be worse,
"Forsaking all others to be true"... Damn, this is going to suck!
"'Till death do us part"... maybe an accident on the honeymoon, can I skydive in Tulsa?

This is why mothers cry at weddings.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Problems of Christianity, a sans fact rant

Maybe it's not Christianity getting in the way. Well it kind of is. When all the Southern Baptist churches start having rallies to pray for the election and they say, “God, we want the next president to be your president.” Shortly after they say, abortion is wrong, and God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. These are nothing more than hypocrites and shoddy democratic citizens. They preach with “humility” they desire nothing more than Gods will because he's benevolent and omnipotent, then they assume to know what his will is. I don't know what started this, but it's now moot unless the cause can be used to answer the question: How do we fix it? Christianity is not inherently a problem for the American government, but I think the type of Christianity the average American subscribes to is. This goes back Charlie's excellent insight on religion, “All religion is a balance between rules leading to increased survivability and rules leading to its own survivability.” I'm in no way qualified to make the following statements, but here one theory:As a result of the Enlightenment; science, rationality, and reason became popular in the upper-class. Then, as in most social activities, the middle class tried to imitate the upper-class in ever present fight to climb the ladder. The enlightenment did not bode well for Christianity so they changed the rules (maybe they changed them before then). “Since faith itself can't be explained, we'll take the stance of saying that Christianity really can provide all the answers.” Suddenly, people can keep worshipping God while embracing the Enlightenment. Sure, this still requires and underlying belief in and idea with no possibility of evidence for or against it, but now the people have their questions answered. At this point, the congregation will quietly return to their pews, some relieved, some stronger in faith, and other only still fearing eternal flames. Over time, Christianity has adapted it's doctrine to include everything from scientific from the big bang to the big crunch. However, because Christianity supposedly has all the answers its adherents are often given the opportunity to accept or reject scientific fact at will... just as they are enabled to perceive moral judgments as black and white even when they not explicitly explained in the Word (abortion, women’s suffrage, once saved always saved, homosexuality, masturbation, the varying types and necessity of baptism) .

Aside: I remember hearing, in reference to the big bang, “well of course, Genesis is a metaphor, and how else do you think God would create the universe? He’d just point and, bang there it is.” I like this explanation, God would just speak into existence a singularity that would blow up with order…it empowers God without contradicting scientific evidence, a great, irrefutable argument for scientific minded Christians.

A major difference that empowers religion: they promise progress now and something else afterwards; science can't compete with that.

End rant.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ordem e Progresso

I have been of the belief for some time that a major problem with the US is the role Christianity plays in our government. Even when I was a Christian (and I was quite devout, by my own and other’s views) I questioned the government’s right to force Christian morals on citizens via legislation. When I made up my mind on abortion, I was nearly still dripping from the baptismal waters. I was of the opinion that abortion should be legal, but that I would only counsel an individual to seek abortion in rare cases. Today, that opinion has changed in the sense that I'd only advise Christians to seek abortions in rare cases (or others whose beliefs don't accept abortion)... others can get abortions whenever they like… see if I care. The shift only reflects my personal change in acceptance of Christianity. No, I'm not advocating abortion as a means of birth control; birth control is an effective means of birth control, as is pulling out, or excessive masturbation. When those and the plan b/morning after pill fail, abortion is better than the bare minimum alternative of unplanned pregnancy. Anyway, enough about dead babies…

The US is supposedly secular, yet Christianity appears to play a large part in our government. I always felt Christianity was hindering progress by pushing for legislation based on morals not everybody held. Until recently, I failed to ask, “Is secularism necessary for progress?” The answer is no. If you define progress in terms of pro-choice success, it’s pretty necessary, but what about more basic human needs (I just realized abortion is quite a luxury), what about life expectancy, standard of living, and education?

The Human Development Index (HDI) is used by the UN to rate countries in one quasi-holistic datum. The US ranks 8th worldwide, not too shabby. I can’t slam on Christianity too much because 7 of the top ten have an overwhelming majority of citizens who declare themselves as Christians. The other three are: Australia- majority Christian, but not as tilted as others; Japan – mixed religions, non- Christian; The Netherlands, one of the most secular nations in the world. It’s also worth mentioning Ireland ranks above the US in HDI and boasts one of the most prevalent rates of Christianity. This data causes a complete reversal of my question.

Is Christianity the best catalyst for progress? Recent history says no, the Human Development Report from 2006 (for which the HDI is derived) also has a handy little graph charting HDIs by global region in the last 30 years. With the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, we all seem to be progressing at about the same rate. The graph is interesting (click it and keep it open), East Asia actually looks like it may be the best place for me to retire, and appears that Eastern Europe has just recovered from the collapse of the Soviet Union. I’m open for criticism here, because I know I’m really talking in generalities, but here’s what I see when I look at the graph:
-OECD – Christian, Democratic
-E&CIS – Christian, Democratic (limited in the east)
-LA&C – Christian. Democratic
-EAsia – Many secular with many Buddhists, healthy mixture of governments
-Arab – Islam, Mostly one party control
-South Asia – Hindu, Democratic or under militaristic control
-Sahara- Sand, lots of sand
I see more government variability in the lines than religious variability. I think I can make a strong case that if religion did have an effect, it should show up in the graph. I now believe that progress is being had at a similar rate worldwide; and Christianity isn't holding us back more than anything else.
For mathies only: The lines aren’t exactly parallel, but they become more so if you consider exactly how the HDI is formulated, it’s a combination of logarithmic and linear functions, so it shouldn’t and equal rate of change won’t be linear. You should also expect the highest nations to be plateau a bit. Therefore, I fail to reject the null hypothesis (sorry about that for you non-math nerds).
For non-mathies: clicky...Hat-tip Drew

I still don’t feel anything outside the tangible and quantifiable should be used in legislation for people of disagreeing beliefs. To me this seems like the only fair thing to do. Our government really is organized for secularism... but it seems pretty obvious politicians need to play the "we're on God's side" card to get votes. So why can’t we progress faster? Is it the people? Wouldn’t be the first time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My secret platform.

Sorry, this is all pretty boring. It’s the journal page prior titled, “I can’t stand for, but want to,” that gets a little more exciting. The first and only entry...

-Allowing more natural deaths to occur [no more decades of life support, let babies born with defects die or be terminated]

That’s as far as I got, but should be enough controversy for today. If you can’t give back, you should not be here. I clarify that opinion by stating that all men are not created equal; this does not mean some should be denied certain unalienable rights. TJ was only half right. In a perfect system, all components are running full blast and no one is falling behind or getting ahead. Not to say that the components of the system are equal; only that they fulfill their purpose equally as well. Given the fact that a person with an IQ of 80 can be autonomous and productive, but will never match the potential of a person on the other side of bell curve, it makes sense that they can not be equal in every way. However, a better definition of equality is that Forrest, Forrest Gump; Stephen Hawking; and Soccer mom all have the same chance to fulfill their potential. Qualitatively I would argue the United States and most of Europe have the resources to provide this equality; the problem, of course, is allocating those resources properly and cutting back inefficiencies.

Recently, I realized that a large number of my views place the individual as more important that the community, but I believe individual empowerment is the best way to benefit the population. This greatly affects my views on solutions to sexism and racism. Much like I believe the US should concentrate on it's own problem before we worry about others, I feel individual improvement should be the first step towards helping others. It should also be said that the fourth book in Gulliver’s Travel’s had a large effect on my life and the development of my idea of how a utopia would have to run (I beliefs don’t parallel the book, but I see it as a very useful analogy). Failing to admit inequality is one big step away from optimization… helping to establish my opinions on “no child left behind”, feminism.

Firstly, I realize that Stephen Hawking is a severely physically disabled individual that has given back more than I ever will. I’m not advocating all babies that aren’t perfect human specimens be aborted or terminated, but I am saying a kid with the IQ of stump and physical deformities limiting him/her to a life of assisted living have no place in this world. You sure don’t see it anywhere in nature.

Secondly, I quite like my definition of the equality we are entitled to: An equivalent opportunity to fulfill an individual’s potential.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My general platform

For lack of a better word, I’ll call it my journal. It’s really just a collection of frantically scrawled thoughts. The flow is perforated, or perhaps it’s safer to say it doesn’t exist. A key difference between my journal and others is that I’ll let most people try and read my journal. Try is the operative word there; I’m the antithesis of a calligraphist. One excerpt is quite pertinent to my desire to step into public policy.

Ttitled, “As a politician, I would” is pretty standard small government progressive stuff:
-Promote education [respect for educators…raise the bar and the salary, leave children behind, integrate tracking, promote world-wide education, promote administrations that back their employees]
-Promote debt-free, smart spending [maintain tax levels, spend smarter and/or cut back, reallocate money saved by smarter spending to needed areas (education, social security, science)]
-Design macro policies, do not legislate micromanagement.
-Promote public fitness and health (including non-smoking public areas)

This is my platform, I feel like it’s more about investing for the future, as opposed to fighting today’s fires, which will fizzle out in … “the Ciiiiircle of Liiiife”. Sure politicians work a little on the future, but not enough in my opinion. In the words of Barney Fife… "nip it in the bud." Also, if you have decided the best course for the future, it’s much easier to decide what in the present should be done to integrate with that. We need to do less and get our country out of debt to empower future governments to do more. We need to promote public fitness today to decrease health care costs tomorrow; promote good education today to increase our competitiveness exponentially in tomorrow’s global market... something about an ounce of prevention? Notice I didn't mention foreign policy... we need to fix our own shit first, and the world sure won't mind a break from us.

And then we’ll take back the white house YAAAAAAAA!

Interesting:, reports news on what the people actually think, nationally and internationally (I sent them my resume)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I want to be in politics

In dramatic movies people always have that one aphorism that is only loosely related to the plot, but is always pivotal in the climax. You know… like in Batman Begins, right before Christian Bale goes ass-kicking he says to Katie Holmes, “It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” Then he flies off in leaving nothing but the smell of bad-ass as a reminder. Well despite my best efforts, my parents have left me with an adage similar in the sense that I can’t get rid of it. I think they only said once, “[life is] all about how many people you help.” As much as I have wanted to reject that… it has always come back to in some way affect my major decisions (most of which are yet to be made). I chose industrial engineering, because I liked it and I’m good at it. However, I believe it’s not just about how much I can increase the company‘s bottom line, but in addition how much I can improve the working environment of my employees and how the facility can be a positive influence on the community. This mantra will make my job harder as I struggle to develop quantitative measurements of “soft” changes I recommend. How do you convert worker comfort into dollars? Oh sure, there are ways, but you always trade quality of measurement for cost of measurement; you are usually left with cheap, but statistically insignificant values, or the inverse. What’s probably going to be worse is convincing Mr. Million-Dolla that Junior Barely Over the Poverty Line and his wife Over Breeding deserve anything traded for a few points on his ratios. (oh yes... the poor are breeding or the breeding are poor).

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” The place I could really help the most people is as a moderately (or better) successful politician. I’d like to hold public office sometime, to try my hand at swaying the masses to accept what I believe to be right, knowing that the average Joe will have about one percent as much information as he needs to make the decision on his own.

I don’t think this will happen because I have played the game on a miniscule scale and didn’t like it. Sure, I won the elections I needed to in high school, but even then I didn’t enjoy being fake for two weeks. I can’t imagine months of acting on a regional or national stage. Perhaps I’ll shoot for an office I can just be appointed to. I can’t play the game because my views are not ready for public approval. I don’t even know that my views are that far removed from the average personal opinion (especially of my generation)… but we all know there’s very big difference between who people are underneath, and what they do to define themselves (it’s around 64 percentage points). My answers to seemingly simple questions would likely be too prolix for the average attention span, and the more a politician talks the more he/she is at the risk of being quoted out of context.

This being said, I don’t think I could win a major public office, but I could be an effective bull-moose candidate. And perhaps that’s a great way to help a lot of people.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Help put a stop to the injuries

I wish this was from the Onion. It's not, it's from my university:
Lawn mower accidents rise this time of year.
It's funny by itself, but even more ridiculous when you consider how many university students have kids to protect, or killer mowers to push. We all rent. We don't do that stuff.

university - an institution of learning of the highest level, having a college of liberal arts and a program of graduate studies together with several professional schools, as of theology, law, medicine, and engineering, and authorized to confer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Continental European universities usually have only graduate or professional schools.

Screw Europe's graduate or professional schools... we have a safety dude to learn us about the dangers of basic yard maintenance. 'Merica

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech, the non-shocking part

Yeah, it's bad. That dude was psycho. That's really all I have to say about that part.

A psychology professor of mine once quipped that a majority of psychological experiments only gave significant data on the psyche of the collegian (she was most serious only when joking). This is because college students are the most frequent participants in psychological experiments. There are a number of potential causes for this, all of which are unimportant to what I'd like to write about today. The effects on the studies are increased ambiguity about the population as a whole, coupled with a more specific knowledge on a particular group. Today's college students will wield most of the power and money of my generation. This will remain true as long as society is being tag-teamed by an increasing percentage of college graduates and a widening in the high school graduate/college graduate salary gap continue(as current trends suggest).

What's my point? My point is that studies inundated with college students are efficacious predictors of what will become mainstream in the future. Collegians (as any parent or psychologist will agree) are not quite done growing up, but they are quite established as people and personalities; they still have a lot of changing to do, but are psychologically representative of who they will be in a couple of decades. No, I'm not saying we'll all become loner assassins.

Welcome to the part where I try to tie all this together. Have you followed the Virginia Tech story at all? At first, I wasn't really planning on it. I read that it happened, I thought, "well that was stupid," and went on about my day. By the time I get back to the US, this will be ancient history (read 4 months old), and it won't affect my life in any way. I was however, drawn back to the story. Not by a particular interest, but because of the way it has been documented. Tragedy strikes on a large college campus, a place where pagers and copiers and camera film are relics of an ancient past. The minority do not have mp3 players and/or camera phones.

I apologize for the recent influx in pontification over future cultural trends, but this is the future of our news and media. Less "reporting on-site" hours or days after something happened. More video, shot by those affected; photos, by those with the best vantage of the news maker; actual sound bytes, no more dramatized re-creations; and a new breed of reporter whose job is to compile all the evidence into a compelling story line and included clarification and analysis of the abundant primary sources at their fingertips. If you haven't checked out the story go poke around a little bit and see if you agree with me.

Thanks for reading.

US Census Bureau: macro stats on graduates by region, and salary
Random google result: salary gap, and a little blurb on change over time

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Backwards Forwards

Who still sends forwards? Well, my grandma does. Usually, they leave you with a bad case of TCO (total cuteness overload... see above) or convey some message of brotherly love so that any validity of the message is besmirched by its bedaubed presentation (gotta love alliteration).

Anyway, I delete most of them... but sometimes the subject line gets the better of me. Today was an example of the latter. The subject line is "FW: FW: FW: Yup Gitter Done!!!!!" OK so I've actually seen Larry the Cable guy live, and I laughed. So I figured I'd check this one out. The forward was about what a true American is.
I the first two lines have me chuckling:
You might be a TRUE AMERICAN if: It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, "One nation, under God."
You might be a TRUE AMERICAN if: You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.

Ha, I like this forward, it's satire on conservative Christians. I'm still not going to send it on... but I'll chuckle to myself as a drag it to the "Delete" folder. I read on, and hold the phone. I'm sure you all see where this is going, but the email is not a satire, it's serious. It continues along the lines of: you've given your last dollar to a friend, treated veterans with respect, or respected your elders. The email ends with "God Bless the USA, Git 'er Done!"

There is a deeper truth. A true American wouldn't protest about seeing the 10 commandments posted publicly, Nor would a TRUE American protest about seeing versus from the satanic bible posted publicly. That whole freedom of speech thing is constitutional right? Wait, maybe there's not a deeper truth. Perhaps being a true American means you must be, ignorant, close minded, and respectful only to those who agree with you. Perhaps I’m moving after graduation.

It's great that one of the true Americanisms is: you know what you believe and you aren't afraid to say so, no matter who is listening. I guess this doesn't apply to liberals, or non-Christians. By the same logic, since I'm a true American, grandma and I are going to have a little talk. This forward makes me angry, frustrated, and embarrassed on so many levels. The only thing keeping my pants on is the thought that hopefully this isn't the majority. Wait... election 2004? Damn, wrong again. Don't get me wrong, I'm also pissed at liberals who are just as close-minded and stubborn. I guess this all reverts back to the adage that explains the differences between democracy in theory and in reality: "never underestimating the power of stupid people in large groups."

On a side note. It's hard to respect any large group of sheeple whose most popular catch phrases include uneducated or simply errant English: Git 'er done; Ain't Skeered, others. Also note, the number of non-cliché grammatical and spelling errors in this email is astonishingly high. That might suggest something about the intelligence of the person that started it. To demonstrate this, I provide as evidence, the last "paragraph" of the chain letter:
This is Excellent, No Matter what you deem fit to call it. It is our Country, It is our ways of LIFE, and I love it. If you agree please keep it going. Pass it on.
Not like my grammar is stellar, but if I was going to send something out with the intention of it reaching thousands of people, I'd try a little harder.

In honor of this. I'll switch my periods and commas for this last bit, but hey. That's my WAYS of LIFE. 'Merica,,, FUCK YEAH!

Monday, April 16, 2007

the future of religion

I just finished up din din. A spicy dry-rubbed beef steak cooked in a coconut sauce, topped with abacate (a less-sweet, amazonian cousin of the avacado), on the side, garlic and onion potatoes. It was good. Do you miss me now Apayo? If there are any independently wealthy females reading this, take note... sans pre-nup you could have dinner like this almost every night (Tuesday night is half-price burger night at Sonic, Sunday is the day we eat with your parents). Enough about business, on to the meat of the post.

No metaphors or creativity in today's title. I'm going to predict the future of religion. First I'd like to comment that I've never held much stock in new religions. If a religion is correct, it's been here since the beginning of time. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism have a chance (Buddhism?); LDS, Christian Science, and other modern inventions are right out. Seriously, if there is a God, she wouldn't wait until 1972 to reveal the truth, thus condemning thousands or millions of years of prior humanity to an eternity of gnashing. Then again, the condemnation of others seems to be an issue for many upstanding individuals in a score of religions. People just don't like the fact that a benevolent being could condemn an altruistic non-believer to a fiery eternity. For centuries, this has been a weapon of cub-scout level atheists and an obstacle for budding apologists. Theologian’s response to this, "well maybe the scripture can't be taken literally in all cases."

Good job there, Capitan Dumbass... way to add ambiguity to my quest for a favorable eternity. Why not just pave the way for cults where only the leader dude really knows what's up. You say you want more than that, well I'm not suprised. Maybe, if I'm lucky, the leader dude will send me the truth twice a month. Some people call this an effect of post-modernism on Christianity, others call it spineless. I call it both, and the future of religion.

Eventually we're all going to get along. Cue the brass section and Don LaFontaine... "the future is here... the future is now." As the major world religions become more accepting of each other the Bahá'í Faith is growing. The Bahá'í Faith is spineless, and I like it. The Bahá'í Faith in a nutshell is everybody's kind of right, okay? Bahá'í is monotheistic and more or less believes that all religion up until now is the progression of morality and should be viewed as history to learn from while we all move towards order and progress.

I personally know Jews, Christians, and Muslims that believe "all good people go to heaven." I was speaking with a self proclaimed catholic tonight who believes similarly. She has refused to change religions in the past, but only because she knows and is comfortable with Catholicism. Interesting... I was expecting her to remain catholic because, "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light." I sure missed the mark on that one, huh? She is aware of Bahá'í but is going to die catholic because she's comfortable. A Bahá'í might call her old school. I objectively call her a hypocrite (in her defense, she's a very nice, intelligent girl, who realizes the errors in her own logic and is also a self-proclaimed hypocrite). If you’re going to stand for something, fucking stand up for it. I have to give Muslims some credit for having a few more lumbar comparatively. They think you’re going to hell and they’ll tell you about it. They’ll be the last to convert to Bahá'í.

My biggest complaint with Bahá'í is that it taints the word religion. It’s too easy. Almost everybody is invited, even scientists. One of the 12 principals of Bahá'í faith is the harmony of religion and science. This is cool because I like Stephen Hawking. I suppose technically athiests, some agnostics, and polytheists aren't invited. I don't think the Bahá'í faith really require enough "faith." I'm drawing that fine line between moral standard and religion, but my opinion on this matter is moot. I think the values that most religions promote are fantastic, and the world needs more of them. Bahá'í intends to accept these and build on them. I'm not calling myself a Bahá'í just yet, but you won't see me shed a tear as the flocks cower at the mention of the wolf named "condemnation" and find solace in this haven. It's not too late to switch. Just remember, two minutes in heaven is better than one minute in heaven.

In other news: I've started getting the word of the day from last week... I've only received one word I didn't know, and I forgot what it was. They need to up the ante a bit.

Edit: Quite pertinent tidbits from E in the comments.
-The Qur'an technically states that all monotheistic religious persons are invited to the big eternal event. There is no "only way", just multiple names for Allah. Still, we shall see who folds last.
- The Baha'i Temple in Chicago burbs is the largest in the Western Hemisphere (I believe). They're quite accepting; pick God or a higher power, as long as you pick only one. Something like it is certainly the future of religion. Philanthropic, yet I agree spineless. And what about those who are not peace-loving, honest, chaste, and trustworthy? Are they accepted even though their lives do not reflect the teaching? Can the world really improve through our attempts at oneness, or is there too much hatred, hunger, and discrimination that we need something more drastic?Unfortunately, even those who claim a savior over a teacher are too busy bickering over how to spell condemnation.

Interesting about the Qur'an... I have the same questions about Bahá'í. While informative, the Wiki article doesn't answer questions on the finer points of the faith. Do they have heaven and hell? I don't think so... I think it's really just a moral standard.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A big dumpster of time

Before I left US soil, I was already feeling the painful bite of Brazilian bureaucracy. I won’t bother you with the story of my visa problems, but I had them. My travel agent told me Brazil, becuase of the unorganization and bureaucracy, was harder to get into than any country in Europe (she also told me my bags would be checked to Recife, and if I’d listened to her they’d have been left in São Paulo). To buy a SIM card for my cell phone in the mall here I had to first wait in line and speak with an associate who determined the nature of my visit. I then received a number and waited for a salesman. The salesman got me lined up, and gave me a receipt and directed me to another line. In this line I paid and got a cool “pago” stamp on my receipt. Then I went to another line, and upon presentation of my receipt, received the SIM card for a phone that won’t work in Brazil because it’s too old. To quote Dr. William Spooner in a fit of rage, the systems in Brazil are “like a well oiled bicycle” (yeah, you’re going to have to look that one up. I remembered the name from a book I used to read on the shitter in 7th grade. My apologies).

I don’t mind walking slow, or waiting in line. I do hate gross and blatant inefficiency. Something in my head pops when I wait at a bus stop 30 minutes and then two busses from the line I need round the corner at the same time. The first bus is full, the second is empty. It would only take two or three dispatchers and some UHF radios to eliminate a lot of waste from the public transportation here. It’s not like it really matters, the culture here is similar to what I hear about most of Latin America. You can’t really be late, you either show or you don’t. Time is a very liquid concept.

Does this aspect of culture create the inefficiency? I don’t think so. It allows it, but I would not put the blame there. So what causes all this loss of time? After all, time is money. Wrong! In Brazil you can hire a maid to cook and clean for you 5 days a week for $200 (R$400) per month. My theory is that labor is so cheap it’s just more profitable not to upgrade or reorganize. If one computer costs 6 months wages for a good employee, by the time reorganization or upgrade pays itself off, the program, or goods accommodated are now obsolete or changed. This would explain why Pizza Hut (which is better down here) uses software that I think is UNIX based. If you don’t know what that means exactly, its bad… like 5 inch floppy bad. It’s just more profitable to use an old method than to upgrade and fire half your staff.

On one hand, customers have to wait more than is necessary. On the other hand, this culture creates a lot of jobs. I mean a lot. Since the jobs are limited in scope and require little or no qualifications, the people are pretty good at them. It takes me longer, but service is good. While the wealth is distributed poorly here, at least the lower class is eating and working… instead of using food stamps to buy steak before they drive home in their truck and yell at me to get my bike off the road. Perhaps, this is an argument in favor on minimum wage increases. Increasing the minimum wage makes efficiency more profitable (Is that confirmation bias?)

While I highlight the negative aspects here… this is great when you’re at a restaurant or on the beach, you have dozens of low level employees just waiting to serve you. Tips are not expected, the employees receive (collectively) 10% of the bill. They work hard because they want the job.

*If you still don’t get the spooner thing. I was saying the systems are like a well-boiled icicle, which isn’t much good to anyone. Ole Bill Spooner may have said a well-oiled bicycle on accident. I cannot apologize enough for this hairable tumor. Sigh...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Fix it, unless it is already broken

Whilst I was waiting for an episode of Kenny vs Spenny to load on youtube (my favorite episode). I started to fiddle with a used then discarded twist-tie that was left on the table from my breakfast. Since I had nothing better to do and I exhibit traces of OCD, I began the process of trying to return the twist-tie to its original shape. I was quickly derailed by my limited attention span. I only spent a few minutes trying to make the twist- tie perfectly straight. In that time the thought crossed my mind, was this "correct?" Was the twist tie perfectly straight to begin with?
Women's rights... the feminist movement. At least in my experience the loudest heard proponents of women's equality want men and women to be 100% equal in every way: wages, the monotonies of life, intellectually, socially. In a discussion with my roommates from Portugal (which appear to me to have a very male dominated relationship), I knocked at the flood gates by asking, "how are women's right in Europe, anyway?" I'll admit I don't know much about the culture in Europe right now. Women only gained the right to vote in Portugal in 1976. Ana and Bruno both agreed that was a good step in the right direction. Ana then went on to the common statement that women are not paid equally with men; and that she felt women should be paid equally. Somebody brought up the topic of construction workers and Ana stuck to her guns... that was a mistake. To clarify, Ana stated male and female laborers should be paid the same regardless of output. The immediate response was that if a male and a female aren't outputting the same they shouldn't be paid the same. Her rebuttal was something about equality being more important than economics. Here was my example to bring her up to speed:

Assume: We have one average male and one average female that work for a company providing a heavy labor based service. When based on productivity we say (using numbers only suggested to keep it easy):
Male salary = $30k; Female salary =$15k; Total = $45k; business profit from labor = $300k

Now Ana is elected dominatrix of the world and women's wages are equaled (with no regards productivity). Now:
Male salary = $30k; Female Salary = $30k; Total = $60k... but because productivity has not increased profits due to labor will be reduced by the ratio {Total1/Total2}... new profits due to labor are $225k.

The laws of economics suggest this will lead to either: an increase in inflation to compensate for the loss of profits, or a decrease in wages(both have the same effect on the consumer). Using the latter because it's easier:
Male and female wages (still equal) are reduced so per "dollar of labor" the business receives the same number of dollars of profit - i.e. Male's and Females make $16,875 each; Total of $33,750
Now women are happy because they have "equality," but husband and wife couples now have to live on 25% less buying power (notice 25% was the increase in total wages).

After I explained this, Ana's face dropped and she didn't have anything to say. Bruno was happy. I digress... while I'm pretty sure this argument is economically correct it can also be used against increases in minimum wage, which I voted in favor of a few months ago (a different topic altogether).

Am I saying that women deserve to be paid less than women? If they are less productive, yes. However, paying a female accountant less than a male accountant because she's female is wrong. I'm actually a feminist (libertarian or individualist feminist to be exact). Likewise, if a woman can produce more in any situation, she should be paid more.

Re-enter the twist tie. Perhaps the twist tie wasn't perfectly straight to begin with. Maybe, in manufacturing the twist tie is created slightly curved. Theoretically, I could straighten it out perfectly, but this would not actually be "fixing" it. Making it perfectly straight would still leave stress on the twist tie because it wasn't in its original position, even if I don't think it's orginal postision is "correct"

The goal of feminism should be to eliminate cultural difference. It can be agreed upon that men and women are scientifically/naturally/physically different; for the world to be optimal, these differences must be accounted for. Otherwise, we could still reach a "utopia"... but it would be suboptimal, I don't think that's a very good utopia (bad utopia...definately an oxymoron).
How do we do this? Well we're on the right track. It's a culture change that has to continue happening in males. It also requires women that are driven and motivated and don't feel entitled to something because of eons of patriarchal oppression. Some feminists say it's moving too slowly, they want legislation to speed up the change. I say change is happening slowly, but it is helping and getting better all the time. Why? Now this isn't backed up scientifically, but gender bias seems to be getting better with every generation... and it takes time for antiquated people and ideas to die. Legislation will not speed up the change of ideas, it will force grumpy old men to promote a woman over a man and then resent her because of it. When comparing economic characteristics you can bet factors indicating sexism are a good 15 - 20 years behind the culture change that's actually causing them. It takes time for male favoring fathers to die and be replaced with fathers that want their daughters to be lawyers just as much as they desire the same for their sons. It takes time for that population of daughters to graduate college and rise through the ranks. Populations shift slowly, and ours is shifting in the right direction (in the US anyway).

Don't fix if it it's not broken... well it is, but it was broken to begin with and we need to embrace the situation's brokenness and use that to our advantage. On average, men are better at physical labor, so more men should do that than women. Women are better than men at many things, society needs to embrace that as well.

Closing comments:
-Remeber the twist-tie.
-I will be stay at home dad, if that is the best thing for the fam.
-While I wrote this post, Ana (the feminist?) has burnt breakfast, ordered delivery for breakfast, washed clothes, cleaned the kitchen and the floors in the aparment, while Bruno plays soccer on his laptop.
-Pregnancy in the workplace is tough. An employee being gone for several months definitely decreases productivity; I don't really see how we can hold that against women, a paradox.

Page of pertinent statistics: Women's Bureau division of Department of Labor
What type of feminist are you: from
Minimum wage Wiki: Fast linked to the economic analysis section
Perfection from Wikipedia : Related in the idea of what the answer is, but also interesting.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The story of the Giro Superfan

Edit: See the new ending.

So a little over two years ago. When Greg, Dave, Zack and I lived at Foxfire. Greg, Dave and I decided we were going to watch the beginning of what would be an epic Giro.
On this particular day the prologue starts at 3PM... it's 2:51 and the three of us are sitting in the living room waiting not very patiently. It's a nice nice afternoon in May in Missouri. We have the windows open. Since I'm always trying to make good things better I say something like, "Isn't this race in Italy? Shouldn't we be drinking wine?" We decide we have time to make a liquor run as long as I'm faster than normal (I have a history of browsing the liqour store for 45 mintues to an hour)... we all pile into a car and run to Arena Liqours, which derserves dual credit for most of our stories from Foxfire. Trying to find the perfect drink for any moment can be difficult, but on this day I thinks mine eyes were directed by the hand of Dionysus. We find Carlol Rossi... Sangria (but not like the one pictured above, that is the 3L... we got the 5L). $12 split three ways.. that's like 5 dollars each or something, sweet. We go. We get home just in time for the dramatic sports TV music to start. With Phil Legget jabbering about somebody sometime that won a race somewhere, we open the sangria. So we start into it, we all think it's a little sweet, but palatable and a nice complement to an afternoon of watching bike racing, perfect, my job here is done. After a few minutes, greg gets up and says "you guys need refills?" Dave and I calmy decline and continue watching we are not done with our first cup. Eventually, I need a refill, so does greg again. At this point I don't think Dave is liking the sangria, but he's playing along. Greg and I have to work at the Blue Note that night, so I'm not hitting it too hard. refills continue, as does bike racing. Around 4:45 we notice the sangria is disappearing at an alarming rate, and greg is getting louder and making large gestures with his arms when he talks. At this point we figure it's a good idea to go eat dinner (I think this was planned).

Mmmmmm.... we are hungry, Greg is out of meals and I only have two (for Dave and myself), so we do what most hungry guys do, we call the women. The freshman I'm dating doesn't have any meals left either (this is a bad day), but her friend does, and she's hungry. Knowing we have meals waiting for us homeostasis returns to the group. We prepare to leave, but greg isn't quite ready. Doing his Greg thing he just kinda says, "hang on" and returns smiling, holding a beer bong that we stole from Ryan Brown (thank's Ryan, it's been great). The bong's proper name is Betty. Greg has decided to bong some Sangria. Cool, whatever, it's daylight, seems right. Betty isn't a real skinny attractive type girl. She's kinda stout and built for working; she can carry a good load. Greg hits betty and and loses a little sangria on the back porch... he is not satistfied with his performance and decides to try again. The second time is picture (or story) perfect. Not a drop spilled, sangria goes down smooth. Ok that was sweet.... let's go eat dinner. We get to Eva'Js at 5:15 and Greg is getting pretty wound up. Greg meets his roomates girlfriend's friend and she swipes him for dinner after a drunken introduction. On this particular day Greg happens to know everyone in Eva J's... so it's only a matter of time before the whole place knows that greg is wasted. We get food, sit down, pray, and begin eating (one of those didn't happen). Greg eats a bite of his sandwich and a bite of just ad water macaroni and says, "Uh.... I'll be right back." As he heads in the direction of the exit (which also happens to the only way to a bathroom) we all turn to watch, but quickly lose interest as our focus is drawn back to the food directly in front of us. Apparently greg had a long circular discussion with the guy who was swiping cards to make sure the guy would remember him after he went to the bathroom. It went something like this:

Greg: Hey man, I need to go to the bathroom, will you remeber me when I come back.

Card Dude: Sure dude, no problem.

repeat 8 or 9 times, change wording a little each time with greg becoming increasingly concerned about being forgotten

When we all finish our dinner we comment that we don't know where Greggles went off to. Somebody takes care of greg's tray and we stroll out of Eva J's and head towards the lobby. I'm chatting it up with the girls and Dave finds Greg who immediatly says "we need to leave, now." Well, ok captain obvious, that was the plan anyway, but you just drank a half-gallon of sangria in 2 hours so I'll cut you some slack. Apparently greg had thrown up and then fallen asleep in the bathroom floor in Johnston Hall. Keep in mind that it's still very bright outside, birds a chirping, the gerg is hammerd ("the gerg" is Greg's name in all pirate lore).

We head towards the car... greg emphasizes the point that we need to leave now because he needs to be home. We get home and it's time for me to go to work... so dave graciously accepts the responsibility of a six and half foot tall man who is quickly losing control of all motor functions. As I'm walking out the door I pass dave trying to reason with greg, who at this point has taken off his pants and is sitting on the front porch, and who doesn't want to move.

Did I mention greg has to call in and maybe work in 2 hours? I mention to my boss that greg will be quite unable to function at work that night. Right on time at 8:00, Dave calls in for greg to see if he needs to come in. By this time greg is asleep (it's still daylight). Not one to be duped, our boss plays it coy and says he made need him and to call back in 30 minutes. He continues this pattern until 12:30AM.

I meet up with the girly after work, and we decide to watch a movie. Around 3 AM we are in the living room and greg comes up looking a bit haggard. He doesn't know what time or day it is, but we get him on track pretty quickly, he slams some water and goes back to sleep.

The next day I wake up at noon to observer the effects of adderall. Greg and dave are glued to the books. Apparently greg woke up around 6AM having already slept off his hangover and promtly began to study. It was a very productive day for him. That, children, is how you prepare for a proper day of studying.

Edit: Here is a picture of the aftermath, courtesy of "the gerg"
Notice the pants.

I'm pregnant.

I just found out, I've been pregnant for 1 month. In December I will give birth to something... I'm thinking about calling it adulthood. No... I'm not having a real baby, it's a metaphor (jeez mom, take your estrogen pill and have some vodka with breakfast).

So, in 8 months I will graduate college after a short 5 and 1/2 years. I'm expecting to get a real job as an industrial engineer. It should be fun. Well, that's an understatement... it's going to be a blast. I'm going to take my new baby (still not a real baby) and move to a new city where I don't know anybody, start getting paid in checks instead of cash, and get a mortgage payment.

Don't worry, this isn't one of those sappy "I'm kinda scared... the world is so big" type rants. No way, the world doesn't have anything on me. It's going to rock. I'm actually really excited about living as a bachelor on an engineer's salary. As the date of graduation approaches I keep thinking more and more about all the things I'll be able to do with the freedom gained by raising above the poverty line (and also cutting the financial umbilical cord I still enjoy). I don't feel the need to have a traditional house... but I am enamored by the prospect of having a space I can really make my own. I do understand this is all pending on a lot of variables going my way, but my extensive procrastination(see last post) has led to a higher percentage of variables swaying in my favor. What's true is you can expect my car to be old, my furniture to be second hand, guest room without a bed... but you will probably be able to climb from the front door to the back without touching the ground. The kitchen will most likely contain the most technologically advanced equipment in the house (quote source).

If I live someplace hot I'm also going to have a snow cone machine... with only piña colada and french vanilla flavorings... if you want something else you'll have to bring it.

So I'm not sure where exactly I'll end up, but I'm really leaning towards the rocky mountain region (maybe Durango), the pacific northwest, or Canada ( guess I like coniferous forest). Overseas is not out of the question. I have one great connection that may require me to live in southwestern Missouri for a couple of years before I move out, but I'd have a lot of options when I did. I realize that most of the things I want will not allow me to live in a major metro... that's fine... the close I am to open roads and trail heads, the better. As long as I live close enough to a city that can provide me with the social networking I crave... I'm all good.

Anyway... it's going to take a little time, but my house is going to be small and probably old (to me this means it will have flavor), but will be a playground for me. I'll go ahead and invite you all to drop by any time. As long as you realize you'll be sleeping on the couch or a cot. These are all things I've been wanting for several years (including the snow cone machine). Others seem to have the idea that happieness is moving into larger and larger houses. I think happieness is having 3 or 4 small houses in locations to satisfy (mountains, water, hot, cold). I'd like to live a

Other things I will likely bring into my life:
-a person climbing space
-music recording equipment
-a synthesizer
-a brass instrument of some kind (perhaps a flugel horn)

Things on my 10 year to do list:
-Pay off a small house. (emphasis on small... it's just me, no need for much)
-Hike Kilimanjaro (Erika, are we still on?)
-Continue education in the theoretical side of industrial engineering (lots of stat), psychology, and logic(only basics here).

Things I'd like to do:
-Write an editorial (I guess that'd be making this analog and official)
-Run for public office (only if I think I could help)
-retain all the neat little skills I've acquired throughout my life, improve if possible (languages, instruments, math, etc.)
-and of course, pick up some new skills... like bo staff skills.

Only 8 months... I'm already anxious. If I want this to happen I need to take some notes from the roomie Greggles who did a stellar job of job searching and ended up landing a teaching job in Torreon, Mexico next year. School is going to take a back seat to job search this semester.

All this excitement about being young and beaming with life force has led me to realize aging may be a very difficult process for me... but that won't be happening for awhile.

My college career has been anything but normal, you can expect the real world to be similar.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Brain clots and procrastination

Went to a party last weekend... left my camera in my ride's car so I have nothing to show for it for a couple of days. Today, I headed south a few kilometers to a resort beach. Oh man, it was really nice, but since I don't have a camera now I will have to get pictures from the Spanish twin sisters I went with. Porto Galinhas is one of those beaches with chairs in the water that include great service, food, and drink. The water is crystal clear. Sailboats skimming around the reefs and a wall of palm trees surround you... it's tough. I think I saw a crayon ponyfish.

I'm not a writer by trade, so I can't call it writer's block, but I have some mental stoppage that is ok. I don't have much to say because I haven't been too pissed off lately. I've chosen to post two poorly structured, loosely connected vingettes.

First, an addition to the dumbest smart guy you know: I'm operating down here on a grant provided to me by Professor John Bowders (link to program site). To make a long story short, because I had some visa troubles, I ended up not getting the grant money in my personal account until I was already in Brazil. The ramifications of this are that I am now in Brazil with a pile of money sitting Missouri. I have checks for the bank, a non-related visa, and the internet at my diposal. So here's the question... how do I get that money down here? I don't have an ATM card. I can't open an account down here because the bank require you to reside in Brazil for one year before opening an account. Tommorrow I think I'm going to try and buy some traveler's cheques (notice the Bristish spelling) with my credit card. Convert them to $Reais and pay the credit card off online. It might work. Until then, I have about $50 (US) to live on.

I'm not really worried. I realized today is that procrasination has helped me to develop problem solving skills and also helped my learn to relax and not stress out. I still wish I didn't procrastinate on doing things like getting money to the country I'm living in, but I do... so I'll keep working on that. Until I fix it... I'll use my problem solving abilty as justification for procrastination. Conversations will go something like this:
Victim: Why are you just standing there?!?!
Brady: I'm practicing.
Victim: What in god's name are you talking about? You have to get down and get the chopper right now (perhaps he's a Scwarzenegger fan)
Brady: The longer I ignore this problem the better I'll be at solving it.... or something.
Victim: I will literaly murder you. Order your goddamn Subway immediatley!

Speaking of procrastination: the brazilian government requires foreigners (depending on their visa) to register with the federal police with 30 days of entry. I have about 10 days left so I'll do it some time. At least one of my predecessors in in this program neglected to read that part of his visa. No one told him to register, so he didn't even know... and didn't. He finds out in the airport in Rio one hour before he is supposed to fly back to the US. Needless to say it was a bit of a fiasco, but the final result was that he came home, but is not allowed back in Brazil for 10 years, or he has to pay $400 (US) upon entry. I'd prefer not to be an enemy of the state, so I'll register.

Agenda for the next week:
Find money
Spend the weekend a few kilometers in the interior (not like the Amazon, just not the coast)
Register with Polícia Federal

In other news:
-Greg once told a car full of a grandmother and prepubescents that, "real bikes with motors are for slack jawed pussies who can't hack it."
-Its conclusive, Brazilian women in the northeast are for the most part not attractive.