Saturday, June 28, 2008

Eating hot dogs

I just took second place today in the Nathan's Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier in San Francisco. If I had won, then I would be at the national championship at Coney Island next week.

I previously complained that I was unable to sign up, but I complained and they let me in yesterday.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Your Brain Lies to You

Neuroscientists Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt write in the NY Times:
False beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web site to dispel misinformation.
There are some good reasons for confusion on that last point. Barack Obama has a Mohammedan name. His father and step-father were both Mohammedans. His mother was an atheist. He spent some of his formative years in Indonesia, a Mohammedan country. Mohammedan doctrine is that once he is a Mohammedan, he is always a Mohammedan.

Obama claims to have converted to Christianity as an adult, but he did it by joining a racist and anti-American church that seems foreign to American Christians. He is reluctant to criticize Mohammedan terrorists, and he fails to support American efforts to contain violent Mohammedan jihadists. He seems insincere as he panders to his political constituents. There is no way to know for sure what his beliefs are. I don't think that poll is so wrong because Obama certainly does have some peculiar Mohammedan sympathies.

Women Have Not Adapted To Casual Sex

Science Daily reports:
The sexual and feminist revolutions were supposed to free women to enjoy casual sex just as men always had. Yet according to Professor Anne Campbell from Durham University in the UK, the negative feelings reported by women after one-night stands suggest that they are not well adapted to fleeting sexual encounters.
My guess is that this is no surprise to non-feminists.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Beautiful Mind

When the movie A Beautiful Mind came out in 2001, there were many complaints about its accuracy. Most of the complaints had to do with omitting embarrassing details of his life. But many of those details were just unverified rumors that did not belong in the movie anyway. I found it odd that this mostly-accurate movie was so criticized, when other supposedly-factual movies like the recent 21 are gross fabrications that are horribly misleading in every scene.

The biggest fiction in the movie was the display of visual hallunications, when Nash actually heard non-visual voices.

But here is a distortion that is deliberately misleading. A Beautiful Mind shows the hero recovering from his mental illness, and saying, "I take the newer medications." In fact he hated the forced psychiatric drugs that he had to take in the 1960s, and he never took any after that. The director said that he wanted to promote psychiatric drugs. What most people don't know is that the drugs are really not very effective.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is Tiger Woods juicing?

I think that athletes like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but I am wondering why no one is accusing Tiger Woods of taking steroids. His muscles are now huge, he has gotten a series of improbable injuries, and he took the year off rather than submit to the new PGA drug tests.

How to nap

The Boston Globe explains. I recommend afternoon naps.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Harm caused by same-sex marriage

Some people have asked how same-sex marriage could possibly harm non-homosexuals.

Harm to regular marriage is just one reason to oppose the recent California court decision mandating same-sex marriage. There are other reasons for wanting marriage law to reflect the popular will on how marriage ought to be defined, and for opposing supremacist judges who want to impose their values on us.

One of the main functions of traditional marriage law was to provide a way for a couple to make a binding agreement to be jointly responsible for any resulting children. For thousands of years, civilized societies have depended on the family unit, with each child being the responsibility of one father and one mother.

But marriage law has evolved. Divorces are granted unilaterally. Non-married fathers can gain child custody rights, and married fathers often lose them. Civil marriage has been reduced to a financial contract, and judges assume authority over the kids in case of divorce.

Same-sex marriage is one more unfortunate step in the long list of legal changes that separate children from marriage. The harm from same-sex marriage is slight, because few gays will marry anyway. But there is harm when it convinces people that nothing else matters as long as two people are in love and committed, as an LA Times poll just reported. The next generation may not even realize that marriage was once a way to take responsibility for children.

Proposal would change rules for bicyclists at stop signs

The local newspaper reports:
SAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) - Bicyclists, who often raise the ire of drivers and pedestrians for their loose interpretation of traffic laws, could be allowed to roll through stop signs and travel through red lights after halting.

The “stop and roll” proposal is patterned after a state law in Idaho in which bicyclists are legally able to treat stop signs as yield signs, and interpret red stoplights as stop signs. Currently, California bicyclists must stop and put one foot on the ground at stop signs, and follow the same stoplight rules as drivers. ...

Bicyclists said they were in favor of the idea, especially because it is difficult to start pedaling from a dead stop and stoplights occasionally do not recognize bikers because of their size.

“Bicyclists are already perceived as outlaws who never stop at stop signs,” said Andy Thornley, program director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who added that bicyclists see drivers as aggressive and pushy.
About a month ago, I was riding my bicycle and had to make a left turn at a stop light. There was a local cop who stopped on the shoulder and watching the intersection. A left turn requires a left turn arrow, and I happened to know that the intersection has a car detector in the left turn lane. It was not going to turn green for me. It was a lightly-travelled intersection, and I could have waited as long as 20 minutes for a car to enter the left turn lane and trigger the green left arrow.

So I just did a stop and roll, and the cop did not say anything. It would be nice if the bicycle stop and roll were actually recognized in the Vehicle Code, because it is a practical necessity.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why organic milk tastes different

Sci Am magazine explains:
Organic milk lasts longer because producers use a different process to preserve it. According to the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, the milk needs to stay fresh longer because organic products often have to travel farther to reach store shelves since it is not produced throughout the country.

The process that gives the milk a longer shelf life is called ultrahigh temperature (UHT) processing or treatment, in which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit (138 degrees Celsius) for two to four seconds, killing any bacteria in it. ...

So why isn’t all milk produced using UHT?

One reason is that UHT-treated milk tastes different. UHT sweetens the flavor of milk by burning some of its sugars (caramelization). A lot of Americans find this offensive ...

UHT also destroys some of the milk’s vitamin content—not a significant amount—and affects some proteins, making it unusable for cheese.
In other words, organic milk has been cooked to completely sterilize it. It tastes different because it is sterile.

I thought that organic milk was marketed to the kind of people who believe in fresher foods, because fresher foods were tastier and more natural, and because processing destroys nutrients. I would think that those folks would hate UHT-treated organic milk. It is like buying canned vegetables instead of fresh vegetables, just because the can says "organic" on it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

News: kids sometimes annoy other kids

Ms. Magazine reports:
A study released this month reports that 90 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 18 reported experiencing sexual harassment. The study found that girls who had a better understanding of feminism from the media, their parents, or teachers were more likely to recognize sexual harassment. ... The most commonly reported forms of sexual harassment were unwanted romantic attention, demeaning gender-related comments, teasing based on their appearance, and unwanted physical contact.
I am wondering where they ever found kids who had not been harassed, according to that definition.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Indiana supreme court approves spanking

From an Indiana court case:
Sophia Willis is a single mother raising her eleven-year-old son, J.J., who has a history of untruthfulness and taking property belonging to others. ... Willis warned that if he did not tell the truth he would be punished. J.J. again gave the same story. In response Willis instructed J.J. to remove his pants and place his hands on the upper bunk bed. J.J. complied, and Willis proceeded to strike him five to seven times with either a belt or an extension cord. ...

Willis was tried in a bench trial for felony child battery; ... The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the conviction.
She should not have had to go all the way to the supreme court to justify giving the little stinker a whooping.

A rolling stone

I was watching the great 1975 movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and there is a scene in which some shrinks are trying to decides whether Jack Nicholson is crazy. One shrink asks:
Have you ever heard the old saying, A rolling stone gathers no moss? ... Does that mean something to you?
Jack responds:
It's the same as don't wash your dirty underwear in public. ... It's hard for something to grow on something that's moving.
The question is one that shrinks really use to test for mental illness. The idea is that schizophrenics will not grasp the abstract thinking that is required to understand a simple proverb.

The advantage of this particular proverb is that no one knows what it really means. It dates back to some Roman slave 2000 years ago. The rolling stone appears to be some sort of metaphor for someone who moves around a lot, but it is not clear whether growing moss is supposed to be good or bad. Jack's answer is brilliant because he not only answers the question, but also throws back his own abstract and meaningless analogy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

High IQ correlated with atheism

A UK newspaper reports:
Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the "intellectual elite" considered themselves atheists than the national average.

A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.

Professor Lynn said most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many started to have doubts.

He told Times Higher Education magazine: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.
Or maybe atheism is causing people to be more intelligent.

How to fly without ID

John Glimore once sued because he refused to show ID and was not allowed on an airplane flight. Now the secret policy has bee revealed:
Beginning Saturday, June 21, 2008 passengers that willfully refuse to provide identification at security checkpoint will be denied access to the secure area of airports. This change will apply exclusively to individuals that simply refuse to provide any identification or assist transportation security officers in ascertaining their identity.

This new procedure will not affect passengers that may have misplaced, lost or otherwise do not have ID but are cooperative with officers. Cooperative passengers without ID may be subjected to additional screening protocols, including enhanced physical screening, enhanced carry-on and/or checked baggage screening, interviews with behavior detection or law enforcement officers and other measures.
It is a common myth that photo ID is required. People fly without photo ID all the time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tech analyst fears Apple Computer

The LA Times reports that Steve Jobs has lost weight:
After his keynote address, investors and Apple fans scrutinized Jobs' appearance almost as closely as they did the new iPhone. One tech analyst (who declined to be named out of fear of angering Apple) told me that after seeing photos of Jobs from the event, his clients were so worried that they searched the Web for old pictures of him. Their conclusion: If he were a boxer, he'd be fighting in a lower weight class.
Wow, he fears angering Apple? Just what does he think that the lean-and-mean Steve Jobs is going to do to him for mentioning the weight loss?

Hot dog contest is a scam

The biggest food eating competition is Nathan's Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest. They have 13 qualifier contests in the preceding 2 months. But I tried to sign up for one about a month ago, and discovered that they are by invitation only!

I emailed someone in the company, and was told that all the contests were booked up, and I could only get on the waiting list. It seems to me that they ought to be able to accommodate anyone who wants to enter the contest. Is there some shortage of hot dogs?

Whoever wins is not really the champ. He will only have beaten those who were allowed to compete.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Learning from gay unions

The NY Times pretends that research supports same-sex marriage:
A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. ...

Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; ... With same-sex couples, ... the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.
So what exactly does this teach us? That wives should adopt the same interest (or lack of interest) as their husbands? That same-sex marriages are better because they are more egalitarian? If they find that same-sex couples often wear each other's clothes, will they say that regular husbands and wives should do the same? This is wacky stuff.

Monday, June 09, 2008

18 million cracks

I am still waiting for the wise-cracks about Hillary Clinton saying:
Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it.
I guess that she is saying that she got 18M primary votes, but only about half of them were women.

California ballot measure could ban same-sex marriage

A long article in the Wash Post about legal uncertainty in California same-sex marriages says:
The language of the measure does not seem to suggest revoking marriages that take place between June and November, legal experts say. But such a move would depend on the courts' interpretation of the proposed amendment.

Experts say that if the measure passes, the state may choose to recognize the marriages, creating a pocket of married same-sex couples.
What the article does not include is the actual text of the Nov. ballot measure:
Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
So how do they find legal experts to say that this requires recognizing same-sex marriages? If the measure passes, the plain language says that no same-sex marriages can be recognized in California.

No California same-sex couples will be inconvenenced, no matter what happens. They can always register as domestic partners, and still be effectively married even if the ballot measure passes.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The mindreading astronomer

The Bad Astronomer blogger has this tirade against a proposed Oklahoma law:
Let’s be very clear here: this legislation is not well-intended. It is intended to undermine the Constitution. It’s that simple. These people want religion taught in the classroom, and they want to do it at the expense of science and of reality. For them to say anything else is dissembling at the very least. Do you really think they want kids ...
It is amazing how unscientific these scientists are once they stray from their core expertise.

He bases his whole attack on his supposed ability to infer the intentions of the bill's sponsors. But his readers are scientists who are unlikely to believe that he has any mindreading skills. Why not simply explain the harmful effects of the law?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Better to repress feelings

Physorg reports:
It's okay to keep those feelings inside, new study suggests

Contrary to popular notions about what is normal or healthy, new research has found that it is okay not to express one's thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma, such as a school shooting or terrorist attack.

In fact, people who choose not to express their feelings after such an event may be better off than those who do talk about their feelings, according to University at Buffalo psychologist Mark Seery, Ph.D., lead author of a study to appear in the June issue of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

The study investigated the mental and physical effects of collective traumas on people who are exposed to a tragedy but who do not experience a direct loss of a friend or family member. It focused on people's responses to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the results may generalize to include responses to other collective traumas.

If the assumption about the necessity of expression is correct -- that failing to express one's feelings indicates some harmful repression or other pathology -- then people who chose not to express should have been more likely to experience negative mental and physical health symptoms over time, the researchers point out.

"However, we found exactly the opposite: people who chose not to express were better off than people who did choose to express," Seery says.

Moreover, when the researchers looked only at people who chose to express their thoughts and feelings, and tested the length of their responses, they found a similar pattern. People who expressed more were worse off than people who expressed less.
Freudians promote the idea that repressing feelings causes them to smolder in the unconscious mind, causing neurosis many years ago. Research shows the opposite. The Freudian view is wrong.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sales tax measure had misleading description

My local county just passed a sales tax measure with this ballot description:
Countywide Library Improvement/Continuation Measure.To support and maintain local public libraries and library services through acquiring books, children’s educational materials, computers and technology; increase and improve children’s reading, adult literacy, senior and other educational programs; and upgrade local library facilities, shall Ordinance No. 1 of the Santa Cruz County Public Library Authority be amended to continue the existing ¼ cent sales tax for libraries with no increase?
The official pdf is here.

I think that voters were deceived. It was really a measure to make a temporary tax permanent. Ten years ago, we passed a sales tax increase to support libraries, instead of supporting them out of general funds. The tax was scheduled to expire in fifteen years. The vote this week was to prevent the expiration five years from now.

I guess that it is debatable whether to call this a tax increase or not. My real problem with the description is that it claims that the measure will increase library services and upgrade facilities, and do it at no increase in taxes. It makes it sound like we are getting something for nothing, and only a fool would oppose it.

It uses the word "increase" to have two opposite meanings. We are only going to get that increase in library funding five years from now, when we get the tax increase. Meanwhile, we get neither the increased funding nor the increased taxes. The deception is that the measure brags about increased funding that only happens five years from now, and then brags that there is no tax increase, hiding the fact that the tax increase kicks in after five years.

The libraries must have bribed whoever wrote the ballot summary. Someone should sue to void the election.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What did you do to provoke him?

Here is the latest from a bad advice column:
DEAR ABBY: My children and I were living with a maniac who threatened to kill me if I took the kids and ran. We reached out to his family, ...

His father said, "What did you do to provoke him?"
That was a fair question. The writer did provoke her husband by threatening to kidnap his kids. It sounds like she wanted her father-in-law to do something without hearing the whole story.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Men are slobs unless they are gay

The main character in the first episode of the new TV show In Plain Sight gives this inspirational speech:
Okay, look. Here's the thing. Men lie, they cheat, they start wars, they're slobs unless they're gay, and there are precious few of them walking the planet that are worth putting on lipstick for.
I guess that is why Hollywood likes gays so much -- they are the only men who are not slobs!