2016-01-30

WOW

Watch this:

I love Copland's music, Appalachian Spring especially.  It's a ballet, but I've never considered the musicians as the dancers.  This really works.

I've never done anything like this, but this makes me miss the rush of performing in an orchestra as I did in high school and college.

Frankly, this is beautiful.  I can't imagine any better way of performing this particular piece.  It brought a tear to my eye.  The Simple Gifts part could not have been more perfect.

What it all means

Okul Ain.

Like that full ride to Westpoint?

Ben Carson won't Lie.

Toecutter Sought for Questioning

Typical motorcycle enthusiasts being typical motorcycling enthusiasts.

Police are responding Saturday to reports of a shooting and at least one stabbing that broke out at a motorcycle show at the Denver Coliseum.

Like I said after the Texas Twin Peaks shootout, banning guns is impossible, banning motorcycles on the other hand....

Something good comes of pure evil

Facebook bans gun sales.

Facebook is banning private sales of guns on its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service, a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions.

Facebook already prohibits people from offering marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs for sale, and the company said on Friday that it was updating its policy to include guns. The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs can still maintain Facebook pages and post on Instagram.

Facebook's business model is to steal your identity and sell it to advertisers.  It's a nice gesture, but they're fundamentally evil, and other than shutting themselves down, nothing will redeem them.

Wrong

As wrong as this decision is, I doubt Kentucky voters mind.  They're apocalyptically stupid people.

I absolutely detest evangelical christians.  Not a one has any redeeming value whatsoever.   That said, if they want to waste a truckload of money making themselves look ridiculous, that's their right. 

This just about sums up how serious this "museum" is:

Wonkette

Right as usual.  And I liked Lucifer.  Hope it goes somewhere.

If I remember correctly (Job) it was god who was a total dickwad to the eponymous Job, not Lucifer.

Anyway, fuck Olive Garden.  Not for sponsoring Lucifer (their money is as green as anyone else's), but because they're just another chain restaurant choking the life out of the industry. Neverending diabeetus bowls indeed.

They're the Chinese buffet of "Italian" food.

2016-01-29

EMAILGHAZI

Remember this part:

Kirby said the State Department has not yet made a determination of whether the information was classified at the time it was sent or has become more sensitive due to subsequent events. He said that, regardless, the information was deemed too sensitive Friday for release.

Because it will be lost in the shitstorm this is certain to cause.  Because why wait to resolve that insignificant detail?   Somebody without a penis is a strong contender for president and This. Can. Not. Stand.

Charlie does a better job with this one.

Ancillary

I don't need to read the article, because I've read the books.  Read them (the article, and the books, or just the books.

Ancillary Justice was published with little fanfare in 2013. Its author, Ann Leckie, had never published a novel before and was a relative unknown outside the world of science fiction book fandom. But then, word started to get around on the blogs—Ancillary Justice was something special, a galaxy-spanning epic with characters and conflicts that took a tired genre in mind-blowing new directions. The buzz reached a fever pitch when the book won both the Hugo and the Nebula for 2013, the two top US awards for science fiction.

Leckie followed up rapidly with two sequels, Ancillary Sword (October 2014) and the New York Times bestseller Ancillary Mercy (October 2015), which surprised readers by abandoning many conventions of trilogies. There is no giant spherical object in space that must be destroyed; there is no bad guy with a singular purpose; there's not even a good guy whose journey offers us an arc of transformation or redemption.

The series will no doubt be remembered as one of the most exciting and confounding developments in space opera of the past several decades. Without question, it has changed the way the science fiction book world thinks about space opera.
 This was also what triggered the "puppies" meltdown.  

2016-01-28

This is my earliest vivid memory.

PZ asks where we were when Challenger blew up, which was 30 years ago today.

I was at a baby sitter's house.  I think it was the Mosers...they're family friends that have a daughter my age.

We were sitting in their family room watching the launch live and boom.

The mother said something to the effect of "that's what happens bla bla bla" as if it were Icarus being punished for striving to go higher.

And this is seriously the earliest thing I remember.  I think I was humoring Elaine with her My Little Pony dolls before the launch.

108

One of the conference rooms here is room 108.  Whenever I have a meeting in there, as I do in about 30 minutes, this is the only thing I can think of.


A Pickle

Ok, so I written before about online dating, and now I find myself in a situation that I don't see ending well no matter how I handle it.

Brief background:  I get a reply to maybe one out of every one hundred messages I send out, so I've basically given up and shotgun out messages to anybody who is even remotely interesting.  This includes people without profile pictures, but who actually filled in the rest of their profile, and people with pictures who are vague, terse, or evasive.

I'll also consider people with children, but I'd rather not.  Just at my age, the best person for me may have a child or two, so I'm willing to keep my mind open on the issue.

Now I'm a real catch /s.  I'm not 1-dimensional (I'm 3, literally).  I'm a little bit quite fat at about 20 stone.  I'm tall so I carry it...ok.  I'm working on losing a bit of it.  So it isn't a mystery why my response rate is so low.  

So one of my matches responds, and (this is eHarmony) we get through the guided communications and into the mail part.  She has a kid, and is a little farther away than I'd really like, her profile was vague, but she looks pretty cute.  So I'm a little hesitant, but the aren't any deal breakers so far, such as extreme religiosity, or irrational hatred of logic and reason...but I go ahead anyway.

Now one of the guided questions is "how important are traditional gender roles to you...?" and she asked me that one.

I think this is a very odd question to be asking a Gen Xer or Millenial, so I answered honestly, that they're not important and that partners should share the load based on what they've worked out together.  I'm old enough that I came from a household with a single bread winner, and my parents did conform to the expected gender roles.   At the same time, they never raised me to believe that it was the only correct household arrangement.  I had friends with single parents, and other friends whose parents both worked.  All of this was normal.

Thinking the question was odd, and that I may be dealing with one of the extreme religious types, I asked it right back.

The answer I got was more or less that she thinks the traditional gender roles are very important.  No explanation as to why.

Now I'm not against the traditional roles, I only think that partners need to agree on whatever arrangement they end up in.  I also don't want somebody to think they are duty bound, dogmatically, to confine themselves to a particular station in life if they would rather be somewhere else (such as quiverfull wives brainwashing themselves into thinking they're nothing more than incubators for fetuses).  My partner needs to choose me and it's that choice that gives the relationship meaning.

So I'm understandably not too happy  with this answer.  One of the other questions I asked was what her one important goal in life was.  Her answer: marriage.  Again, no real explanation.

I write back asking why she answered that way, and explained a bit of the above regarding my thoughts.  I went on to ask her what she would want to be doing with her life once the goals of marriage and a stable home and family life were attained.  What does she really want?

I'm expecting the "preacher told me to get married" type of answer at this point.   What I got was, well, that's the pickle I'm in.

She replied that she misunderstood the question, or at least didn't read it the same way I did.  She said that she would want ultimately work as a team with her partner.  So much better.  Then this.

She's afflicted with cerebal palsy.  This isn't going to work.

Now, from what I understand, CP isn't something that's going to get progressively worse over time, like MS (which my maternal grandmother had), and some sufferers lead relatively normal lives.

She can't be that bad off, if she has a son, afterall.

The problem is, her answers now make a lot more sense in the context of her baggage.  And I would never be able to shake the feeling that I'm taking advantage of some vulnerability or insecurity were I to try and establish a romantic relationship with this person.

I would be a rapist in my mind.  And nothing would be able to convince me otherwise.

So what do I do?

Do I block immediately, never to contact again?

Do I thank her for telling me up front, stay it's not going to work then block and run?

Since I'm not a monster, do I thank her for her bravery in sharing her baggage with me, share my baggage with her and then what?  I'm not perfect by any measure, and I think the most respectful thing would be to reply in kind.  I don't want to lead her on, though.

It's honestly easy for me to be quite mean to certain types of people, but in all cases, it's because the "bad" is see in them is a result of the decisions they've made.  This isn't that situation; people are born with CP, it's more like race than religion.

I'm leaning on the third option.

Why can't people make sense?

EDIT: I chose #3.   I figure somebody who has had such a hardship would either suffer from learned helplessness, or have the strongest, most inspiring will imaginable.

2016-01-27

Go ahead and block our shared driveway again...

Every day, at all hours random cars are pulling up into the driveway I share with my neighbors, parking for 3 to 5 minutes, then leaving.

I know for a fact they're buying pot.   I know this because I used to buy pot from them.

Now if I need to leave, or come home one more time and one of these retards is blocking the driveway.  I'm calling the cops.

It's a shared driveway.  When I invite jehova's witnesses over to slaughter them and bury them in the backyard, I make them park on the street.

Because I'm not an inconsiderate asshole.

Watch out #855, the cops will be watching you soon.

Fuckers.

This seems intuitively obvious.

Sciencemag on brain activity while conscious versus unconsciousness.

But the line between consciousness and unconsciousness is a bit easier to measure. In a new study of how anesthetic drugs affect the brain, researchers suggest that our experience of reality is the product of a delicate balance of connectivity between neurons—too much or too little and consciousness slips away.

This fits nicely with my affinity for enactivism.  Through this lens, the results obtained by the experiment are blinding flashes of obviousness (BFOs).

Weapons-grade delusion.

“My sons and those who are there are there to do good, no harm was intended, they never threatened anybody, they was trying to teach people about the Constitution, trying to help the Hammond family, trying to make sure this kind of abuse that happened to them tonight didn’t happen to America, and yet it did.”

Aside from the whole "armed takeover of public property" thing...

On what fucking planet is showing up with a gun NOT an implicit threat of violence?  What is the gun for otherwise?


The complete lack of any form of self awareness, or even anything resembling higher though among these so-called "people" is maddening.

To paraphrase: "We meant no harm, and if you ignore everything we did and said, you'll see that's true."

And it's not like the idiot who got himself killed was an unarmed black teenager...It takes a lot for a white guy to get himself shot by police.

Salon Stupidity.

Camila Pagila has an axe to grind.

During her two presidential campaigns, Hillary Clinton has consistently drawn greater support from women than men. Is this gender lag due to retrograde misogyny, or does Hillary project an uneasiness or ambivalence about men that complicates her appeal to a broader electorate?

As a career woman, Hillary is rooted in second-wave feminism, which began with Betty Friedan’s co-founding of the National Organization for Women in 1967
Bla bla bla. Next paragraph.

Hillary has unfortunately adopted the Steinem brand of blame-men-first feminism, which defines women as perpetual victims requiring government protections. Hillary’s sometimes impatient or patronizing tone about men, which can perhaps be traced to key aspects of her personal history, may prove costly to her current campaign.
She spends the next few paragraphs describing how her strict father, philandering husband and rocky adaptation to southern so-called "culture" fostered in Hillary a dislike of men that she expresses by forgiving her husband?

It is often mistakenly said that by staying in her marriage to the philandering Bill Clinton, Hillary was following the standard pattern of her generation. But it was her rebellious baby-boom generation that spread and normalized once rare and scandalous divorce. In preserving her marriage despite repeated humiliation, Hillary was embracing and reaffirming the painful decisions made by her own mother.

I'm sorry, but how does sticking with her husband support the argument of Hillary as a man-hating feminazi?   It doesn't.

And:

Gennifer Flowers is no historical footnote but rather a ghostly twin, a lingering admonishment to Hillary of everything that second-wave feminism resentfully tried and failed to change in sexual relations. Perhaps it may be impossible for hard-driving career women, schooled in the curt, abrasive Northern style, to give an inch and show that they actually like men as they are. But a top-tier politician like Hillary Clinton is narrowing her presidential chances when she privileges elite professional women at men’s expense.

How so? And by impossible...[to] give and inch and show they actually like men as they are, does she mean "stick with her husband?"

Now I flat out reject the premise that feminism is anti-man, just as fish aren't inherently opposed to bicycles.  Apathy isn't antipathy.  So if you're going to be using buzzwords to try and build a straw figure to strike down (and even include gratuitous references to both Barry Goldwater and Saul Alinsky, for no reason that could logically be connected to Hillary's supposed man-hating feminism), then at least try to make your conclusions be supported by whatever unattributed evidence you bother to provide.

This is a bullshit hit piece. 

Untitled

D -

If you read this, I do actually still think about you from time to time, but the more I do, the more I realize that we'd be like a gorilla and a unicycle.

No matter how patient the unicycle is, the gorilla just won't be able to crack that nut on his own.

(maybe that's a bad mixing of metaphores, because nutcracking on unicycles is one risk males undertake when attempting to learn them)

Anywho...If you think I'm wrong, and that the unicycle actually can teach the gorilla, plmk.

- K

Mr. Magoo wins for insightfulness

LInk: NYT comments on the Bundy arrest.  The Real Mr. Magoo offers:

Next up: the Bundy boys and their partners in crime will be occupying federal lands inside Colorado's Super Max prison. I have a feeling that "occupation" will last a tad longer than the armed takeover of a bird sanctuary in Oregon.

I've been sitting on this one since I found out last night, mainly for two reasons.  First, I don't want to sound too happy that foster-system slaver Lavoy Finicum is the one who wound up dead, because of all of them, and not Oregon Sumo man, Chris Christie's "brother":

he seemed to be the most destined for the suicide by cop role.  Sumo man is just the largest shark jumped by these retards.

And second, because the circumstances of the arrest haven't been reported, and I really, really hope they're simply another example of the incompetent clown show that has been going on for the past month.

Like did the speed off without paying at the local McDonald's on their way to that community meeting?  Likewise for gas?  What instigated the traffic stop that led to the shoot-out, and how mundane was it, and how avoidable would it have been were in not for the boundless stupidity of those involved?

So Mr. Magoo has it right.  The occupies won.  They'll continue to occupy federal land, and for years to come.  Just like they planned.

EDIT: Patton Oswalt tweets:

2016-01-26

You've got to be fucking kidding me

Open mouth, insert foot.  Richard Dawkins edition.

Obviously doesn’t apply to vast majority of feminists, among whom I count myself. But the minority are pernicious.

No, Dick, can I call you Dick? You're not anything even remotely resembling a feminist.

Broken clocks may be right twice a day, but the bottom line is they're broken, and of no use to anybody anymore.  They are discarded.

Dawkins is nothing more than a caricature of what atheists would be, if they also didn't believe in reason, tact, or respect for their fellow humans.

He's a broken clock.

Time to relegate him to history's trash heap.

Piss off, Dick. 

Eat Shit, Lose Weight.





They can make pills that give me a boner, but not pills that make me thin enough for anybody to actually want me to use it on them.


But nutrition is complex and more than just calories, apparently.

The numbers logged in Nash’s Fitbit or printed on the food labels that Haelle reads religiously are at best good guesses. Worse yet, as scientists are increasingly finding, some of those calorie counts are flat-out wrong—off by more than enough, for instance, to wipe out the calories Haelle burns by running an extra mile on a treadmill. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. And our mistaken faith in the power of this seemingly simple measurement may be hindering the fight against obesity.

So what gives?

A few things.  Cooking food makes it easier to digest, thus more of the calories are accessible compared with raw food.

Individual differences also play a part.

But why I'm as incredulous as Jubal up there, is this.

Other evidence suggests that gut microbes might affect weight gain in humans as they do in lab animals. Take the case of the woman who gained more than 40 lbs after receiving a transplant of gut microbes from her overweight teenage daughter. The transplant successfully treated the mother’s intestinal infection of Clostridium difficile, which had resisted antibiotics. But as of the study’s publication last year, she hadn’t been able to shed the excess weight through diet or exercise. The only aspect of her physiology that had changed was her gut microbes.

Where do I sign up?

In a randomized, controlled clinical trial starting this year, researchers will test out such a fecal formula for the treatment of obesity. They’ll also try to glean critical details about the human microbiome and its role in our health and metabolism. The trial, led by Elaine Yu, an assistant professor and clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, will involve taking fecal samples from lean, healthy donors then freeze-drying the stool, putting a gram or two into capsules, and giving them to 20 obese patients.

So, Mr. Early, they're working on it.

Hoist by one's own petard


Amanda says:

It was a moment of justice so delicious that we need a new German word for it, as schadenfreude isn’t impactful enough. A Houston area grand jury was convened, under the orders of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to investigate allegations that Planned Parenthood was running a black market for-profit fetal tissue trafficking ring. After perusing the evidence, the grand jury exonerated Planned Parenthood, but then turned around and indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, two of the people that helped create the hoax videos that took this lurid right-wing urban legend out of the world of email forwards and into the mainstream media.

This is exactly what "Hoist by one's own petard" means.  I usually prefer the "Hoist on own retard" bastardization of the phrase, though.

And I really don't like linking to Salon.  They approach their reporting with all the seriousness of Wonkette, but none of the self-awareness.

Disney is the Devil

This type of situation hits pretty close to home, since I'm in an IT field myself, so I'm aware of this pressure (and see it in my day to day life).
Disney IT workers laid off a year ago this month are now accusing the company and the outsourcing firms it hired of engaging in a "conspiracy to displace U.S. workers." The allegations are part of two lawsuits filed in federal court in Florida on Monday.
Good on the workers for fighting back.  I hope they succeed.

Now, the popular debate about outsourcing is somewhat naive and misguided.   I want to draw a distinction between two different, but related phenomena.
  • Outsourcing:  Contracting an outside firm, or individual to perform a specific task. 
  • Off-shoring:  Moving work overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor costs.
My job is outsourced--to me.  Outsourcing on its own isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It's not all ice cream and gum drops, but at least there is stability to be found with a company that specializes in one specific skill field, compared with contracting independently, and outsourcing creates a market for these companies to exist.

The problem is off-shoring and the H-1B visa program as it is currently implemented.

Generally when people complain about "outsourcing" they're really complaining about "off-shoring."

So when people like Bill Gates call for expansion of immigration to expand the talent pool, here's what they're really after.

LUDDEN: It's not illegal to replace an American with a temporary foreign worker. When it comes to issuing permanent visas, though, a company must first recruit Americans and then prove to the Department of Labor that it can't find any who qualify. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies alleges the system can be finagled.

MARK KRIKORIAN: The attorneys have gotten very good at crafting ads that apply to no one but the person their client wants to hire and then place them in papers that almost no one will ever see anyway.

LUDDEN: Companies are also required to pay foreign workers prevailing wages, but software consultant John Miano says when he reviewed Department of Labor paperwork on this from last year, he found more than half the foreign workers assigned to the bottom skill level and lowest wage bracket.

JOHN MIANO: So when employers want an H1-B [sic] increase, they tell the public that these are highly skilled workers. When employers are calculating the prevailing wage for these workers, they suddenly become low skilled workers.
And that's exactly what happened at Disney.   What is damaging about the H-1B program isn't that it is an avenue to relocate foreign talent to the US, which is a good thing overall, but that the sponsorship requirement creates a class of indentured workers subject to deportation at the whim of the employer.   This depresses wages, since the foreign workers risks deportation if they complain.

If we really want to attract foreign talent to the US, we need to allow them expedited citizenship.  The H-1B program needs to be killed outright.

Fiat

I haven't really written about bitcoin in any depth, mostly because it's somewhat of a joke, and the people that take it seriously are either libertarian gold-bugs, or those out to take advantage of the first group.

So among the bitcoin faithful "fiat money" as a pejorative is a shibboleth.  One is concerned about "fiat money" because inflation, debasing the dollar, government control, and a host of other completely irrational and ill thought out reasons.

First a few definitions:

  • Fiat money:  Money established by law, or government (by fiat).  It has value because the government that established it says so.
  • Commodity Currency: Money itself is a commodity.  Examples are gold coins.
  • Representative Currency:  Money is exchangeable for a set amount of a good.  Examples are US dollars pre 1971.
So in certain quarters fiat money is bad for two reasons.  First is it can be inflationary if managed improperly.  And the second is government involvement in the money supply.

These people are generally convinced that hyperinflation is just around the corner, and that rebasing the dollar on gold is the only way to stave it off.   The problem is:

Limiting the amount of money the government can print when times get really bad and people aren’t spending can result in higher unemployment. My spending is your income, so when people have less means to consume, other people lose their jobs. And down the nasty spiral we go.
Commodity and Representative currencies effectively limit the money supply out of step with economic output.   If, under the gold standard, my steel mill and mine create $1million dollars worth of output in a year, then  the money supply doesn't expand to account for that added value.   Each remaining dollar becomes more valuable relative to the price of the steel (which is deflation).

And this is the what the goals of bitcoin are: an intentionally deflationary fiat currency.

Now bitcoiners claim that bitcoin is a commodity currency, because one "mines" bitcoins by investing their electricity to compute mathematical hashes.  The problem is, these are not tangible, and don't exist outside of the digital realm.   They're not commodities in any meaningful sense of the word.

So why is deflation bad?  If I have a big pile of money, and that money increases in purchase power over time, isn't that an ideal situation for the consumer?

The answer to this last question is no.  There are two problems with deflation, that aren't immediately apparent.

The first is in reality, we are a debt society.  Vanishingly few people buy houses with cash outright, so most households are mortgaged.  Deflation is bad for the indebted, because the loan is in the dollar amount, each dollar becoming more precious over time.

The second is related to the quote from the time article above.   If my pile of money is increasing in value left on its own, where is my motivation to invest it.  To hoard is the main pressure, which kills the "my spending is your income cycle."

Inflation is the opposite situation.  It alleviates some of the effects of debt, by making that debt less onerous over time.

But runaway inflation is bad, so a balance needs to be struck.

So what the fed does is try to maintain something like a 2% inflation target.  This does two things.  First, it eases debt, slightly, and second, it motivates lenders to actually lend.

If I have a pile of money that is very slowly losing its value as it sits stuffed in my mattress, then I'm more motivated to invest it so that it may retain more of its value.  Banks charge borrowers interest that makes up for the value that would be lost due to inflation if the money weren't lent out.

So what really gets me about bitcoiners and gold bugs, is that they want to essentially destroy the economy.   They want to favor those with huge piles of money over those that are in debt (which is pretty much everybody wtih a mortgage).  These are dangerous radicals, and really need to be marginalized.

Bitcoin is just goldbugism "on a computer."

2016-01-25

Folk Wisdom Isn't.

I've followed PZ for about a decade now, and generally found him to be one of the more reasonable figures in the Atheist movement.   This is no exception.

Atheism as a movement suffers from some serious internal contradictions. Atheism is largely an intellectual position, but the movement has aspirations to become popular and common, so it has to appeal to a broad base. Unfortunately, rational evaluation of an idea is rarely the key to popularity. You need to associate this one idea with something deeper, more universal, and more applicable to every day life. Morality. Humanity. History. Community. There are a thousand ways we could make reason and evidence-based decision making a part of our lives.

But you aren’t allowed. A significant fraction of atheists have looked at a dictionary and decided that atheism means denial of gods and absolutely nothing more. We have a noisy contingent that denies any consideration of broader meaning. But how did you come to this conclusi…HUSH! But doesn’t the absence of higher beings mean we…QUIET! Doesn’t this mean the human community is even more…ZIP IT! But there are deep implicati…SHUT UP! I AM AN ATHEIST BECAUSE THE DICTIONARY SAYS SO, AND IT DOESN’T SAY I HAVE TO DO NOTHIN’!

 Now there is no denying that Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens have all argued eloquently in favor of reason and free thought.   At the same time, they've all had a a tendency to insert their feet into their mouths.

Notwithstanding the behavior of some of the movements most famous figures, PZ is absolutely right that there is a segment that refuses to consider things beyond the most shallow dictionary definition of atheism.   

But what I want to focus on is one of the comments for a second.

Actually, this site has long promoted a very insular, biased and rigid view of of what atheism is and how atheists should behave. PZ has serious problems with Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Hemant Mehta, and practically anyone with equal or greater visibility than he himself enjoys, yet gleefully champions the startlingly brain-dead, science-illiterate Rebecca Watson for whatever indiscernible reason…oh, that’s right, it’s because as long as she is as radically leftist as PZ is, he’ll cheerfully overlook how badly mistaken she has been time after time.

I have taken issue with some of the output of each of the people PZ mentions above, but if it’s valid to liken their behavior to that of the indefatigably ignorant and odious Donald Trump, then it’s equally valid to compare Ms. Watson to an overachieving Special Olympian.
 Essentially, PZ is an advocate of treating people with respect, due to his position.  

As a vocal and activist atheist, I’m in a peculiar position. I ought to be in a position to hammer young minds with godless propaganda, but I don’t — I’m actually very conscientious about avoiding making students think about the anti-scientific nature of religion in the classroom, because we’ve got more than enough topics to cover.
So now on to why folk wisdom isn't.  Basically this is the approach of attracting flies with honey instead of shit, or an application of the golden rule (the latter makes more sense to me, I mean how often do you see flies around honey, versus around shit, and why is attracting flies desirable?...we really need a new idiom).

Blame

One thing I want to make clear is that when I write about my thought processes and motivations, is that I am not assigning blame for any particular decision or outcome.

I admitted today that I was a horrible sexist, to put it more honestly. But as tribal influences waned, I came to understand my position and adjusted it by incorporating new information.

I learned to become better.

So how can I write stuff like this without giving the impression that I'm out to absolve myself of guilt or responsibility for my own thoughts and decisions?   Does the very act of attempting to understand one's own position and explain it in terms of some of the social pressures that influence the very same make it an act of contrition or apology?

Shit, I'm on a youtube music kick today.  Sorry to both of you who read this (and the Polish guy too).




Tribalism



Tying in a bit with my last post, I think there was definitely a hint of tribalism in my rejection of certain artists.   Also at play is music as art, or as literature.

Now Chickenshit Conformist illustrates two things about music to me.

First, there's the idea that music exists as a platform for ideas, which is true to an extent.  One can't seriously argue that the Dead Kennedys don't have a political undertone (one I happen to agree with).

But what this song in particular does is ignore the idea that music can exist as a pure artform.  For example:


Cock-rock metal's like a bad laxative
It just don't move me, ya know?
The music's OK when there's more ideas than solos
Do we rally need the attitude too?

Granted, they're really blasting commercialism in the music industry, and the tendency for the bean counters to chase the lowest common denominator.  But the implication that music must have a message is not something I agree with.

The second thing is there is a fair amount of tribalism expressed in the lyrics, where they separate those who are in music to express ideas from those who just want to sell records to morons.


When the thugs form bands, look who gets record deals
From New York metal labels looking to scam
Who sign the most racist queer-bashing bands they can find
To make a buck revving kids up for war
Now earlier in life I was all too happy to separate people into "clades" (yes, I'm well aware I'm misusing that word, but bear with me) that were generally re-expressions of the previous generations' tribal associations.  The cool kids bought into the 60s and 70s revival, the jocks had their worship of all things meathead on tv, the punks could look to the 80s for inspiration, as could the goths...I called it "cookie-cutter nonconformity" at the time, since it was obvious to me, at least, that my peers were expressing themselves in terms that had already been established by society as being generally acceptable, and then trying to pass off these associations as rebellion.

I was ostensibly goth, but rarely wore black, and never makeup.  I wore combat boots, blue jeans, button down white dress shirt, and a vest.  Every day.  At the time, I didn't see any need to dress the part; true rebellion is how one acts.

Which leads to my general distaste for tribalism, which I really do see as one of those irrational social rituals that have no rational place in everyday life.  Why not?  Because this:

If that's not an expression of sheer, unadulterated tribalism, then nothing is.  Granted, NPR has a slightly different take, which is basically a "no shit Sherlock" stance, and otherwise downplays the whole thing. But one important thing in the NPR report:

Now, look: Bristol Palin was not one of the three best dancers of the season. Bristol Palin was probably not one of the six best dancers of the season. Bristol Palin might have been one of the three worst dancers of the season.

And that's the problem of tribalism, expressed perfectly in this comment:

[T]he fact we've been all doing this for Bristol has been driving the Left NUTS…For conservatives, enjoy the fun of finally, at last, getting a taste of what it's like to be a Democrat. You can vote as much as you want. You can vote using all sorts of names. You can vote all day. You can't get paid to vote, because you aren't really a Democrat, silly, but you can get as close as you can possibly get without being in a union or taking part in ACORN.
Now that's just batshit insane.  If you're so strongly motivated by pissing off out-groups as an expression of cultural superiority, that you'll make your own tribe look ridiculous in the process, then well, you might be a tribalistHere's your sign.

So what's the point of all of this?  That we associate with particular groups isn't necessarily a problem.  There's comfort to be had associating with people that have similar life experience.  The problem is when the relationships between the various groups are influenced by fear, spite and hatred.   This is exacerbated when the underlying tribal mores are abstract, like politics and religion.   Or skub.


(I apologize, this isn't very well thought out.  I'll probably revisit tribalism a bit later when I've had more time to think of examples.  I did want to at least touch on music taste as one of the areas in which tribalism has an influence on ones choices).

Noémie Wolfs (and Neko Case [and Geike Arnaert])

Who?  Her:


This just came up in my "shuffle all" ipod rotation.  Noémie Wolfs has the most hauntingly beautiful voice I've probably ever heard.  There's something sibilant about her vocal quality that just really works for me.

Now people who have known me since high school might remember the phase where I didn't take female vocalists seriously.  It was regretful, and I'm ashamed by it.

I think it was mostly idol worship and taking a band's image at face value, more than anything else.   I wanted desperately to separate the cool from the uncool, and in my naive stupidity, I closed off options that I now value very highly.

It wasn't actually this song that broke me out of my stupidity.  It was Neko Case live on Letterman:


This is live, mind you.  Plus the lyrics are simply mindblowing. 

Now for Hooverphonic, why am I posting about an obscure Belgian pop band?  I actually first heard them on Radio Paradise, which I'll listen to occasionally if I'm doing video editing work.  Then this came on.


I can't really nail down why I liked this song so much, but if I have to name one thing, then it's the "trouble is [my|your] middle name" parts.

Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and unicorn farts.   While they have some very nice songs, others are underpants-shittingly retarded.

2016-01-23

This is Perfect

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

Harlan Ellison

I've written that opinions can be wrong, but this quote is exactly how I feel.

From here. Occasionally, I'll take online quizzes for shits and giggles, usually they're of the "which character from <insert show here> are you" ilk.   I didn't realize at first that this one was the MBTI test (though the 16personalities should have been a dead give away).

I first took the MBTI when I got my BS.  The college career counsellor administered it, and I thought it was very enlightening.  It's when I first discovered that people don't process information the same way, and I've tried to be cognizant of that fact ever since.

But when I took it then, I scored an INTP, but very close to ISTP.   Now that I've matured a bit,  I think INTJ fits better.

Shut Up and Take My Money

Oh please oh please oh please oh please...

The new device is internally codenamed “N69,” but the launch name will likely be the “iPhone 5se.” The “se” suffix has been described in two ways by Apple employees: as a “special edition” variation of the vintage 4-inch iPhone screen size and as an “enhanced” version of the iPhone 5s. Indeed, the upcoming “5se” features a design similar to 2013’s flagship but upgraded internals, software, and hardware features that blend the old design with modern technologies from the past two iPhone upgrades.
 Finally.  The ability to use the phone with one hand is imperative.  I still have a 5s, which I had replaced with a 6 when the screen broke but thanks to a repair kit from ifixit, is once again alive (and I sent the 6 back).

Large phones are for stupid people.

2016-01-22

Yawn

Lately Iowa hasn't been a very good predictor of who will eventually win Republican nominations.  Just ask presidents Huckabee and Santorum.

So I don't get all the attention that the media lavishes on those half-wit corn-fuckers.

2016-01-21

Podcasts

I frequently link to the YANSS podcast, so here is the list of everything I subscribe to.  I highly recommend all of them.

  1. Stuff You Should Know: Updated every Tuesday and Thursday, about 40 minutes in length.  Very informal, conversational style discussing a different topic every episode.  Topics are all over the map, AIDS, The Nazi Invasion of Florida, Rodney Dangerfield, everything.   They get reasonably deep into each topic, but overall it's light and fun.  This is my commute podcast, since and episode tends to last me both to and from work.
  2. YANSS: Updated somewhat infrequently, but always worth it when it is.  Occasional issues with audio (hearing guest, etc).  Content is by far the most consistently interesting of all the podcasts I listened to.  I frequently link to these.  About 45-60 minutes.  I typically skip the cookie part, which is at the end.
  3. Hidden Brain: I picked this one up around christmas time.  Updated weekly, about 20-30 minutes.  Content similar to YANSS, but not as deep.   
  4. Radio Lab:  Length, release schedule and quality varies.  I honestly only listen to about half of these, and it depends on the topic (I really don't care about your sick kid with cancer, despite its human-interest value), but when I find it interesting, they really hit it out of the park.  
  5. The Thinking Atheist:  Updated weekly, about an hour.  Seth Andrews, the eponymous Thinking Atheist hosts a radio-style talk show about atheism.  As a baptist who came to his senses, he does a good job elucidating the religious point of view at times.   He often has figures in the Atheist movement as guests, and the topics chosen are interesting.  He is respectful, and doesn't belittle religious people very often (which is my main complaint).  Listen to his podcast about his days as a christian radio broadcaster.   It's absolutely fascinating, and it's the episode that got me hooked.
  6. BBC Elements: Rarely updated.  Explores the periodic table from a business perspective.  How is technetium used?  What's so special about carbon?  There's a great deal more to elements than we learned in high school chemistry.
  7. BBC Click:  I'm not sure if I'm going to stick with this one.  It's a tech news podcast, but it seems overly focused on social media and pop-tech over stuff that really matters.  Not bad, but seriously, does anybody care that India dropped Facebook's farce of a free internet service for poor people?
These rotate by release date in my driving mix, and they're pretty much the only things I'm listening to when I'm driving.

I used to listen to StarTalk Radio, until they started peddling this shit.  I'm not a big fan of the format anyway.  The Q&A episodes are great, especially when Bill Nye hosts, but the play a prerecorded interview clip, riff on it, repeat format doesn't really work for me.

So it will fund anti-gay organizations?

Brendan Eich, the piece of shit that was ousted as the CEO of Mozilla over his support of California's Proposition 8 has will be releasing his own browser.

Let's say you're Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla -- an organization that thrives on internet privacy. What would you do? If you guessed "build a privacy-minded web browser," you hit the nail on the head. Eich is developing Brave, a Chromium-based web browser that blocks all ads by default in the names of both privacy and speed. It'll supposedly be faster than installing all the relevant blocking tools yourself. However, this isn't strictly a power-to-the-people move... the Brave team has its own ad plans.

When Brave is ready, it'll replace the missing content with its own ads, splitting the revenue between itself (15 percent), publishers (55 percent), ad suppliers (15 percent) and even you, the user (10 to 15 percent). Eich sees it as an attempt to "chlorinate the pool" for ads, starting from scratch to build a better business model that respects web surfers. The Brave spots will be based on tags from your browsing history, although you can change or remove those tags if you're worried.
So from a user's perspective, there is no visible advantage, ads are ads are ads.

And worse, it gives editorial control over the ads to a homophobic shitstain.

On Being Rational (Again)

I first wrote about this topic in terms of how dealing with a universe that's basically non-deterministic at its lowest level, and how mental short cuts we take prevent us from being truly rational creatures, no matter how hard we try.

It's not that great, so I'm not bothering to link it.

Now, another YANSS post.

It’s a nice fantasy, to imagine without emotions one could become super-rational and thus achieve things other people could not. It suggests that we often see emotion as a weakness, that many people wish they could be more Spockish. But the work of neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio suggests that such a thing would be a nightmare. In his book, “Decarte’s Error” he describes patients who, because of an accident or a disorder, are no longer able to feel silly or annoyed or hateful or anything else. If they can, those feelings just graze them, never taking hold. Damasio explains that these patients, emotionally barren, are rendered powerless to choose a path in life. They can’t ascribe value to anything... Damasio wrote that “when emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions.” Judgments and decisions corrupted by bias and passion are the only way we ever get anything done.

Now I'm torn on whether or not emotions are rational.  Avoiding emotional pain is a very strong motivator, but is the emotional state itself rational, and not just our reactions to them?

On one hand, emotions seem like a learned response.  One can use cognitive reframing techniques (such as the one I describe in the Slaughtering Your Demons post) to alter one's emotional interpretation of an event.

But does that make an emotion rational?

Does it make a difference if the emotion invoked is one that had been altered through cognitive reframing?




I don't get this one.

TPM link.

It was not unexpected that the Supreme Court took up a case Tuesday challenging the Obama administration's executive actions on immigration. But it was somewhat of a surprise that in doing so, the court asked to be briefed on whether the memo outlining the administration's policy “violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution” -- a question which was not addressed directly in lower court decisions and not among those the U.S. government included in its petition.

I'm generally supportive of the President's action on immigration.   From what I understand, it is basically prioritizing based on limited resources.   We can't afford to deport everybody, so selectively allowing some to stay, in order to focus on criminals makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is this lawsuit.

First, since immigration is a federal issue, exclusively, states don't have standing to sue.

Second, Texas's harm is self inflicted:

Mr. Verrilli told the justices that Texas’s injury, such as it was, was self-inflicted, a product of its own decision to offer driver’s licenses to people lawfully in the United States. Decisions about driver’s licenses and related fees are generally up to individual states. He added that the appeals court’s standing theory would allow states to sue over all sorts of federal policy judgments.

“The consequences of the majority’s theory are particularly acute in a case, like this one,” he wrote, “where a state seeks to leverage its own policy choices to insert itself — and the federal courts — into discretionary immigration policy decisions that Congress and the Constitution have committed exclusively to the national government.”
So they've killed their parents, and leveraging their status as orphans to boost their standing.  And the circuit court bought it.

I agree with this sentiment (from the TPM link):

“It would certainly be quite a surprising and dramatic result to say people can sue the government to say you're not enforcing the law the way we’d like. That would be a very dramatic change,” Andrew Pincus, a Supreme Court advocate supportive of the administration's position, told TPM.

If any argument for allowing the immigration actions to stand is likely to succeed, it's this one.

Roberts has pretty clearly been concerned with the court's legacy, and has been willing to accept outcomes that are anathemas to conservative activists, if he can do so in such a way that incremental progress (regress, really) is made in other areas.

The ruling did limit one significant portion of the law, which sought to expand Medicaid to cover millions more poor and disabled people. The program is a joint federal-state effort, and the court said the law’s requirement that states rapidly extend coverage to new beneficiaries or lose existing federal payments was unduly coercive.

Ruling for the ACA in this way erodes the power of the federal government to compel action at the state level.   Yet, compelling state action through threat of whitholding funding is more or less how we have a national drinking age of 21.  That law would be unduly coercive under the standard set by NFIB vs Sebelious (though the matter is still up for debate).

So as far as Roberts is concerned, he's willing to trade a minor loss for his 'team' for a small victory.

So the question I see is will Roberts be willing to 1) establish standing for states to sue over federal matters, 1a) when the specific harms are self-inflicted, and 2) dilute the interpretation of statutes being the sole responsibility of the judiciary by allowing other parties to sue over what amounts to "butthurt", 2a) establish standing for the former?

As for trying to justify standing under the outcome of Massachusetts vs EPA, which seems to be a similar take-care type suit, the following really can't be said of immigration policy:

"The case has been argued largely as if it were one between two private parties; but it is not. The very elements that would be relied upon in a suit between fellow-citizens as a ground for equitable relief are wanting here. The State owns very little of the territory alleged to be affected, and the damage to it capable of estimate in money, possibly, at least, is small. This is a suit by a State for an injury to it in its capacity of quasi-sovereign. In that capacity the State has an interest independent of and behind the titles of its citizens, in all the earth and air within its domain. It has the last word as to whether its mountains shall be stripped of their forests and its inhabitants shall breathe pure air."[8]

States aren't sovereign when it comes to immigration.

So what's going to happen?  Here are the three possible outcomes I can imagine:

  1. Total victory for the plaintiffs on standing and Take Care.  Very unlikely, since it alters the standing dynamic in very radical ways.
  2. Total victory the for Obama.  About 40%, in a 5-4 decision, due to lack of standing, with the Take Care clause question unanswered.
  3. Partial victory for Obama.  About 60%.  5-4 decision that answers the standing argument in favor of the plaintiffs, but finds for the administration on the Take Care question.
Option 3 gives conservatives additional avenues to sue over federal policies, that activists will completely overlook in their denunciations of the outcome in favor of the defense.  It will be a somewhat pyrrhic victory for the executive branch, though. It's won't completely blow up the ability of the executive to regulate, or otherwise challenge the notion that congress may delegate regulatory authority to the executive, as ruling against the administration on the Take-Care clause would.

2016-01-20

MOAR PLANETS!

I feel like this thing now:

This is really, really cool.

There might be a ninth planet in the solar system after all — and it is not Pluto.

Two astronomers reported on Wednesday that they had compelling signs of something bigger and farther away — something that would definitely satisfy the current definition of a planet, where Pluto falls short.

“We are pretty sure there’s one out there,” said Michael E. Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology.
Now like Neptune, this is a mathematical prediction of the existence of a planet based upon its observed effects on the orbits of other celestial bodies.   In Neptune's case, that was Uranus (tee-hee, Neptune perturbs Uranus...there goes my 12-year old inner idiot again).

Now any idiot with a basic understanding Newtonian physics can also understand the math behind these predictions and observations, so that, to me, isn't the hard part.

The hard part is making the observations to begin with.  The orbital irregularities that were observed were those of Sedna, and objects that orbit beyond the Kuiper belt.

The mindboggling part of this is the fact that Sedna is only about 600 miles in diameter, and orbits between 7,065,000,000 (7.065 Billion) miles at its closest, and 87,010,000,000 (87 Billion) miles at its furthest from the sun.   How were they able to discover Sedna to begin with? Rhetorical question, the Wikipedia article explains how.  Still, that's roughly the size of California from north to south.

Here's Sedna's orbit (also courtesy of wikipedia):

Sedna is red.  Pluto is the purple circle.  It took nearly a decade for New Horizons to reach to purple ring from what is essentially the yellowish green dot at the center of the above diagram (and you have to zoom way in to see it).

So what they've done is discover, and track, the orbits of enough of these objects to determine a pattern,  and that pattern is predicted by a model involving a massive ninth planet, which is even further away (and currently not visible).

This is really exciting!!!

SPACE!!!

EDIT:  Here's an animation that shows presumed orbit of the new planet.

Omen


NYT:

Five planets paraded across the dawn sky early Wednesday in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month.

I may be able to see this one, since it's about when I leave for work every morning.  I'll check tomorrow, weather permitting (also, there is significant light pollution in my neighborhood, which makes seeing stars difficult, even on clear nights).

Can't find any cataclysm predictions related to this yet, but I'm sure the internet will not disappoint. 

Risk Versus Reward

One of the areas I need to spend more time contemplating is risk versus reward.  Like when considering a major life change, the outcome of which would be uncertain, but potentially extremely positive, what is it about us that drives one to hold onto the status quo?   Even if, while comfortable, that status quo, for lack of a better word, sucks.

It doesn't really feel like fight or flight, and it's not specific enough to be an extinction burst.   I know it's general apprehension or anxiety, but where does it come from?

If one is generally open to new experiences that don't have the potential to alter one's course more than trivially, what about major changes, such as taking a new job, or relocating to a new state makes them so scary?

Feer of failure?  Fear of appearing weak, or unsuited to the new circumstances? 

I need to dig into this one a little more.

I miss The Far Side

Amen, though.


What about her collegue, Judge Reinhold?

Any number is too many.

That fact is apparently news to nearly 10% of college graduates, according to a new report by the non-profit American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Off the top of my head:

  1. John Roberts
  2. Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
  3. Anthony Kennedy
  4. Sonya Sotomayor
  5. Elena Kagen
  6. Antonin Scalia
  7. Clarence Thomas
  8. Samuel Alito
  9. Stephen Breyer*
*(to be fair, I did google this last one and I had originally written "Steven")

There are only 9 of them.  Not that hard to remember.

Also too:

2016-01-19

Ugh, fail.

I admit, I like supergirl (actually, more accurately, I've got something of a crush on the Kara Danvers character), but last night's episode was really, really bad.

It begins with some low-rent joker, "Toyman" escaping from prison with the help of his bladed yo-yo.  How he acquired such a weapon is apparently unimportant.


Here it is sticking out of a guard's chest.  The string is also as long as the plot requires (because we wouldn't want our villain to have to break a sweat escaping from maximum security prison), and somehow it's both sharp enough, and thrown with enough force to puncture the ribcage.

Next is just some idiocy in the background on one of the screens behind Cat Grant.


Bitcoin Surges from Capital Controls Crunch.  Now that's some weapons-grade true believer horseshit.  Bitcoin itself is on the verge of collapse.  Notwithstanding the fact that it combines the worse of commodity currencies with the worst of fiat currencies (but that's another post).

The next one is just pants-on-head retarded dialog (sorry, no video):


Alex: What's in that IV.

Hank: I'm guessing some combination of sodium sulfite and sodium iodate.

Alex: The byproduct of which is hydrochloric acid.

There's no chlorine in either compound.  How would it make hydrochloric acid?

Now if they had instead said the byproduct was sulfur dioxide, that would have at least made some sense, but no, that would have required the writer to actually read the wikipedia pages of the chemicals written into the script.

And how did Maxwell Lord plant a camera on Alex's purse without her noticing?  Did she leave it unattended an go drop a deuce during that hot date?

At least Winn managed not to steal bathos from the jaws of pathos, despite the abject absurdity of his father as a villain.  He did dance on that thin line separating the two, though.

And the best part of the episode, was one of Cat's lines:  "While I love to watch you millenials deny your emotions, I pay you not to have them."

EDIT:  The preceding contained unmarked spoilers.

Go ahead and try it, Netflix

In the coming weeks, eh?

Under pressure from content owners, Netflix said last week that it will step up enforcement against subscribers who use VPNs, proxies, and unblocking services to view content not available in their countries. But even Netflix acknowledges that it's "trivial" for VPN providers to avoid blocks by switching IP addresses, and VPN providers say they're ready.

Now I'm not really sympathetic to people using VPN services from overseas to access US services (or using a UK-based VPN server to watch UK content in the US), but I don't think the dragnet approach is a good strategy.

I am forced, because of how the internet works, to use a VPN service about 50% of the time in order to get Netflix to stream HD on my 75/75 FiOS connection.  

I connect to servers either in Washington DC, or Chicago, most of the time.

Verizon's connection with Netflix is once again saturated, and the only possible way to get what I'm paying both companies for, is to pay a third one to transport the traffic around the blockage.

And now Netflix wants to prevent me from using a VPN service?  I've dropped Netflix streaming before.   If they pull the trigger on banning VPN services, I'll drop them.


Tax Brackets

One of the little things that irks me about anti-tax zealots, is they tend not to understand how tax brackets work.

For example, I'm in the 25% bracket, income wise, but due to how tax brackets actually work, I pay around 19.5% in taxes overall.

2015 IRS Tax Brackets
Tax rate Single filers Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) Married filing separately Head of household
10% Up to $9,225 Up to $18,450 Up to $9,225 Up to $13,150
15% $9,226 - $37,450 $18,451 - $74,900 $9,226 - $37,450 $13,151 - $50,200
25% $37,451 - $90,750 $74,901 - $151,200 $37,451 - $75,600 $50,201 - $129,600
28% $90,751 - $189,300 $151,201 - $230,450 $75,601 - $115,225 $129,601 - $209,850
33% $189,301 - $411,500 $230,451 - $411,500 $115,226 - $205,750 $209,851 - $411,500
35% $411,501 - $413,200 $411,501 - $464,850 $205,751 - $232,425 $411,501 - $439,000
39.6% $413,201 or more $464,851 or more $232,426 or more $439,001 or more


 So using $50,000 as an example, let's calculate how taxes actually work. 

$50,000 puts us into the 25% bracket, but we don't pay 25% on all $50,000.  We need to start with the 10% bracket, which covers the first $9,225 of income.

$9,225 x .10 = $922.50

Now we compute the 15% bracket, now remember that only income that falls inside the range of a bracket is taxed at that brackets rate.

$37,450 - $9,225 = $28,225
$28,225 x .15 = $4,233.75

On to the 25% bracket.  We make $50,000, so that is the top number in the range.

$50,000 - $37,450 = $12,550
$12,250 x .25 = $3,137.50

The total tax is the sum of these three:

$922.50 + $4,233.75 + $3,137.50 = $8,293.75

When we divide this number by the original $50,000 to compute the percentage in actual terms, we get:

$8,293.75 + $50,000 = 16.6%

Because of this bracketing, it is mathematically impossible for a person to get a raise that places them into a higher tax bracket, and to therefore make less money after taxes than before the raise.

It's simple, yet the rabid anti-tax side completely ignores this reality.

Jellyfish are Vegetables?

The Guardian asks the question of our times:

Would you eat a jellyfish? The most likely answer would be “no; they look disgusting. And they’re probably poisonous. Shall I wash it down with a nice glass of chilled urine?” But, inevitably, some people do eat them. They might even enjoy them, the maniacs. 

But Cnidaria cookery methods aside, consider this; would it be OK for a vegetarian to eat jellyfish? If not, why not?
 Among the various reasons one may follow a vegan, or vegetarian diet, are moral and ethical objections to causing animal suffering.  Here, it gets confusing.

This brings us back to the jellyfish question; would it be safe for a vegetarian to eat one? If you’re vegetarian for environmental reasons, it may even be better to eat jellyfish, given how abundant they are without any need for harmful human cultivation. But what about ethical concerns? While technically classed as “animals”, they are devoid of any brain or nervous system, and most can’t even control where they move. Everything we know about neuroscience suggests such a creature would be totally incapable of perceiving anything as complex as suffering or discomfort, and it certainly wouldn’t be able to experience any emotional reaction to such an experience. So by eating one, no suffering can be said to have occurred. It may still be a living thing, but then so is a carrot. Why is one OK to eat and not the other?
 The article also mentions stem cell meat as a more ethical way to feed a growing population.  Whenever I see those three words together, all I can think of is this:

Or is the right solution to the ethical problem of using animals for food the one offered by Douglas Adams?

The only problem with this is then the cows become smarter than the ranchers who raise them...

Yup

I called it.

In the last week alone, the militiamen have made headlines–not for forcing the government's hand on federal lands or helping free the Hammonds–but for throwing boxes of dildos on the floor in protest against the mocking mail they have been receiving, for getting arrested after allegedly driving an official refuge vehicle into town to get groceries, for ransacking government files and for using government computers. 

With each odd incident, the media and the public gets more insight into the individuals holed up at the wildlife preserve and their puzzling and incongruent motivations. It does not appear that all of the men at the refuge subscribe to one ideology or another. A report from the Anti-Defamation League actually chronicles that the men hold a hodgepodge of views and have some varying disagreements on how to tackle the standoff. 

By taking a hands-off approach to the incident, the government has actually given the militiamen room to stew, to fight with one another and ultimately, to undermine their cause.
 Go read the whole thing.  It mentions not only the bag of dicks, but the AZ rancher who used the foster care system as a source of captive free labor, the moron who got arrested when he stole one of the refuge's trucks to go grocery shopping, and many other examples.