Thursday, September 25, 2008

About that whole "suspending campaigning" thing...

You know that whole thing about how McCain said he'll suspend campaigning because of this economic crisis? How he said he's going to "suspend advertising, party fundraising and any campaign appearances"?

Yeah well here in Pittsburgh, I saw two McCain ads just last night.

Liar.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Good Math explains the crisis

In case your idea of the mortgage/bank catastrophe is a little fuzzy, Good Math, Bad Math explains it with great clarity and very little jargon. As far as I understand it, his explanation is highly accurate as well.

Monday, September 22, 2008

So it's not the wang, it's what you think. (About the wang.)

Study Ties Wage Disparities To Outlook on Gender Roles.

Iiinteresting. Read the article (in fact, read the study!) yourself.

Point #1: As I told my dude when he showed me this, I wonder if this has anything to do with after- or off-hours work. For example, my significant other spends a non-negligible quantity of time doing work stuff from home. I am also aware that other jobs heavily encourage (ahem) workers to stay after hours, without pay of course, to get shit done on time. I wonder if the men with "traditional" outlooks would feel more obligated or expected to do this sort of work, whereas less "traditional" men and especially "traditional" women feel that they are more expected to take care of householdly things during this time instead. I'm sure that kind of thing affects how "dedicated" you seem and how much you get paid.

Plus, "traditional" men are obviously more likely to have a wifey at home, wiping the dribble away from his bubbling lips and freeing him to concentrate on "more important things" than feeding himself and participating in fulfilling relationships and raising children. (/snark.)

Point #2: I'd like to note some of the angry-making commentary even in the article itself:
"When we think of the gender wage gap, most of our focus goes to the women side of things," said Beth A. Livingston, co-author of the study. "This article says a lot of the difference may be in men's salaries."
"It could be that traditional men are hypercompetitive salary negotiators -- the Donald Trump prototype, perhaps," Judge said. "It could be on the employer side that, subconsciously, the men who are egalitarian are seen as effete."
I just... I dunno, man. I think both of those are vast oversimplifications. (As any study results invariably are.)

Point #3: I'll let Ms. Livingston sum up this -very important- point for me:
"Regardless of the jobs people chose, or how long they worked at them, there was still a significant effect of gender role attitudes on income."
Discussion Point: My boyfriend tells me that he doesn't see why he should be aware of his privilege. Does this serve as a useful example of the effects of privilege? Discuss.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Evolution Facepalm

News dump

Judge says Feds violated 10th Amendment by subverting state marijuana laws. Absolutely.

Wall Street Journal editorial board skewers McCain. A very educational link for me, as I Wikipedia'd all manner of terms like "short selling" and "leverage".

Disney Prepares to Use Its Marketing Magic to Bring Back the Muppets. I'm not entirely sure what I think about this. I loved The Muppet Show, but thought that Muppets Tonight was terrible. And I cringe at the thought of the Muppets hanging out with Hannah Montana. However, the Muppets really have always been a reflection of pop culture.

A federal judge on Saturday ordered Dick Cheney to preserve a wide range of the records from his time as vice president. Thankfully. (Another reason I want Obama elected: he is much more likely to do something with these records than McCain.)

Edited to add this comic. Which is awesome.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palin interview transcript

I have not seen Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin, but I am reading some excerpts of the uncut transcript right now.

At times, Palin seems to sound like a typical politician. At least once, she does that thing where she repeats the same non-answer over and over to a series of probing questions.
GIBSON [in a series of questions about potential national security / foreign relations threats]: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don’t think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn’t second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don’t think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.
That sounds awfully familiar to those of us who watch White House press conferences. (Ahem: "I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.") Let me translate from Politician into English there. What she means is, "I am unwilling to answer that question in a forthright way."

It was a pretty far-out hypothetical, and of course even a President has a whole gaggle of advisors who she could turn to in that situation for help. But a reformer? Not one of "the good old boys"? I've not heard this sort of thing from Obama's camp.

I more agree with these words of Palin's:
[I]t has been overwhelming to me that confirmation of the message that Americans are getting sick and tired of that self-dealing and kind of that closed door, good old boy network that has been the Washington elite.
F'real.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Science Debate 2008

Since I don't have my student ID on me and thus cannot borrow the Organic Chemistry book that I need to do homework, I will instead take some time and go over the presidential candidates' responses to the Science Debate '08 questions, which all of you should go read now.

The first thing I notice is there is a lot of political fluff in the answers.

For example, Obama's camp states, "Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration."

McCain does it too. For example, "My Administration will promote economic policies that will spur economic growth and a focus on an innovative economy."

Yes, I know that's what you want to do. Now tell me how you're going to do it. Please be specific.

I was pleased to note that once the fluff is stripped away, Obama presents many specific policy points that will accomplish his goals regarding every single question asked. McCain does too, in some instances, but in others? Not so much.

I'll point you to the National Security question. The question: "Science and technology are at the core of national security like never before. What is your view of how science and technology can best be used to ensure national security and where should we put our focus?"

McCain:

I have been a tireless advocate of our military and ensuring that our forces are properly postured, funded, and ready to meet the nation's obligations both at home and abroad. I have fought to modernize our forces, to ensure that America maintains and expands its technological edge against any potential adversary, and to see that our forces are capable and ready to undertake the variety of missions necessary to meet national security objectives.

As President, I will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland, deterring potential military challenges, responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.

We are benefiting today from technology that was invented for military use a quarter of a century ago (e.g. the Internet, email, GPS, Teflon). And today, the American military has some of the most advanced technologies in the world to support them as they defend America’s interest. We need to ensure that America retains the edge in the most strategic areas and I will continue to encourage this with advanced R&D research funding.

That was McCain's entire answer. His only real policy suggestion there is in the last sentence: provide advanced R&D funding. Otherwise, it's a lot of blather about "protecting the homeland" and "modernizing our forces". Sure, you'd like to do that. Tell us how you intend to.

Just one paragraph from Obama about the same question, on the other hand:

This year, I was encouraged to see the Department of Defense (DoD) requested a sharp increase in the basic research budget for breakthrough technologies. More is needed. My administration will put basic defense research on a path to double and will assure strong funding for investments in DoD’s applied research programs. We will enhance the connections between defense researchers and their war-fighting counterparts. And, we will strengthen defense research management so that our most innovative minds are working on our most pressing defense problems. A strong research program can also lower procurement costs by reducing technical risks and increasing reliability and performance. Renewing DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) will be a key part of this strategy.
Double basic research. Strengthen research management. Connect researchers with men on the field. Renew DARPA. Those are specific policy implementations that will do exactly what McCain says he intends to do. And that's just one paragraph. Obama continues to talk about revitalizing the Department of Homeland Security, lessening our petroleum dependence by funding alternative energy, and reversing manufacturing sector loss through a number of different -specific- programs.

Some other things I noticed:

  • Both candidates supported a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.
  • McCain focused on domestic solutions to international problems - for example, tax credits for families who buy zero-emission cars, in response to a question on climate change. Obama's response focused more on working with the UN and other international bodies, which makes more sense considering that climate change is happening on a global scale.
  • When asked about energy sustainability, McCain responded that he wants to build more nuclear reactors, which I do totally agree with. (Nuclear is emissions-free!) But Obama's answer was more well-rounded, addressing nuclear, coal, solar, and wind energy; Obama also supported basic research and higher fuel and home efficiency.
  • McCain was far more likely to plug his own virtues in his answers. He mentions his Navy background twice, talks about his views on water conservation "as a westerner," mentions in passing how his record "speaks for integrity and putting the country first," etc.
  • Obama will require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. As someone who has been both on and off different insurances, I can tell you firsthand that this will be AWESOME. On the same question, McCain actually mentions promoting "wellness" as a way to make healthcare more affordable. That's one dog-whistle that makes me cringe.
I know that the large Sciencedebate 2008 page with its giant paragraphs makes for some tough reading, but it's totally worth it. Check it out and let me know what YOU think!

So about that whole 'recession' thing...

Banks are failing.

I'll repeat that. Major financial institutions, some of which have been around for a century and a half, are failing. Being bought out. Losing 90+% of their value and filing for bankruptcy.

Oh, and McCain is up in the polls, too. If you hadn't noticed. (You need no link for that one; just go to any news website.)

I'm scared for the future, I really am.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

N00b Reviews: Spore

Oh, me? What have I been up to lately?

Schoolwork, homework, paperwork, SCIENCE! (With a smattering of political convention watching in there for good measure.)

But that's not why I'm posting tonight. Oh no. Spore came out today, and I IMMEDIATELY grabbed up a copy and played a session. So it's time for...

N00b Reviews!! By the casual* gamer, for the casual gamer.

Spore is everything it was expected to be. The short review: It's the sim game to top all previous sim games. If you even passably enjoyed any previous sim game and don't have problems with game addiction, go buy this.

I played through an "Easy" game in one sitting tonight, and... well, hot damn. It's incredible. Firstly because you can play through an "Easy" game in one sitting, especially someone like me who is slightly less than hardcore. Seriously, this game delivers on all fronts. The creature/house/car/boat/plane/saucer-editors are intuitive and satisfying; the gameplay is enthralling; and I came across a species of animated Cock'n'Balls on my home planet, which I consider a plus. You really end up rooting for your little species, even if they are a pig-snouted, stumpy, googly-eyed, tangerine-colored biped who are collectively known as "MsWiggly".

The city-building aspect is somewhat less than fully absorbing, though, and it took me a while to really get a handle on the custom paint schemes for the non-creature editors. Oh, and if you have anything against competing with a species of animated Cock'n'Balls, maybe because you are a parent of a small child or a religious prude or a super-radical-feminist-lesbian or something, you might see that as a minus.

I'd say it gets top marks** for successfully entertaining me from a single cell all the way into space. It gets even topper marks from me, because I prefer playing games like that in full-on cultural domination mode and it enabled me to completely forego that pesky 'combat' thing - but for the more competitive of you, you can also easily rely on combat as well. I'm absolutely going to try again on a stricter difficulty at some point, but right now I'm enjoying flitting across the galaxy in my flying saucer in easy mode.

Not too much else I have time to say. I must go attempt sleep now, or else risk being very cranky in the morning.

I promise I'll try to make more time for you during this hectic school year, my adoring fans. Or whatever. =P


* By "casual gamer", I mean the kind of person who will not grind whelps for XP or phat lewts. I mean the kind of person who, when confronted with a monotonous or frustrating game, puts it down instead of treats it as a challenge to their testicular fortitude. A.k.a. "us normal people".

** No, I will not give you a numbered score. Those things are lame as hell, and completely arbitrary.