Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Count Me Out of the Target / Best Buy Protest

Although I sympathize with the gay boycott of Target and Best Buy, I do not intend to join in any street protest or do more than simply avoid the stores. I find it a bit unseemly that a gay group such as the HRC is essentially hitting Target up for a donation. I can think of better protests to make than over that particular issue. Also, Target and Best Buy are noted for positive treatment of their gay employees. I would think that Faux News or Wal-Mart would make a better target of protest.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Laura Linney on The Daily Show

The August 11th, 2010 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart surpassed my expectations. It was my first glimpse of actress Laura Linney, who gave a thoughtful meditation on the cultural and philosophical significance of humor. No Hollywood airhead there. She actually dominated the tone and substance of the conversation, which is rare on Jon's show. It is always refreshing to listen to someone intelligent speak on television.

I do agree with her thesis that Jon Stewart is indispensable to the American political scene. Nobody expresses the liberal and left-wing point of view better than he. I am not sure anyone could replace him at this time. His presence helps to counterbalance the pernicious influence of Faux News. Although he has less air time than the entire Faux News lineup, it is a case of quality versus quantity.

The only problem I see with his show is consistency. Some shows are better than others. The quality depends upon the material provided to him by right-wingers. If the opposition has done something particularly hypocritical or self-serving, then his show profits. If the Republicans have only committed minor transgressions, then his show suffers. Sometimes Jon is forced to look outside the political sphere, on occasions when the Republicans have not done anything particularly bad. Times were easier for his show when Bush was in the White House.

A key difference between Faux News and Jon Stewart is that Jon is willing to criticize Democrats, liberals, and the Obama Administration whenever warranted. He is not completely partisan. Faux News, however, is completely partisan.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

The DEA Doesn't Need a Warrant?

A recent case in which DEA agents entered a man's property and planted a GPS tracking device on his car without a warrant is shocking. Even more shocking is that the courts upheld their right to do so. This is an unprecedented power-grab. Apparently it is OK for police to enter anyone's property for any reason and do whatever they like, without notifying or getting approval from a judge. That does seem Orwellian.

The judges who ruled in favor of the DEA must not be aware of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. I am not sure what country the judges think they are living in, but the last time I checked, California was a state of the United States, not a province of Iran. Let us all hope that the court ruling is overturned.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Independent Thinking

One of the weaknesses in the military is that it creates absolute commands for soldiers to obey without question. Any deviation from rigid rules is punished. The entire military experience is calculated to eliminate independent and creative thinking. There is a danger that soldiers may devolve into little more than killing robots, inept if not incapable of independent judgment.

Lack of independent thinking resulted in this tragedy, in which a young Palestinian girl was needlessly shot by an Israeli captain. The captain should have disobeyed his orders in the name of common humanity and common sense. To shoot anyone, child or adult, male or female, in the back while they are retreating and not carrying anything that could be used as a weapon and have not committed any harm to anyone, demonstrates poor judgment.

Terrorists have created the conditions that resulted in this tragedy by using civilians in plain clothes, of all ages and both genders, to conduct terrorist operations, including surprise suicide bombings and other atrocities. Every Palestinian civilian is potentially a suicide bomber or else an accomplice intended to distract soldiers. There have been bombings directed at Israeli schools, marketplaces, and civilian homes, in which Israeli civilians, including children, are targeted. Terrorists want to kill all Israelis, whether they are soldiers or not. Their strategy betrays a kind of madness and is counterproductive.

Why did the captain shoot his weapon? Violence begets violence, and atrocity follows atrocity. The threads of civilization break down as people observe their neighbors, friends and loved ones getting injured or killed as a direct result of not being paranoid enough.

It was just possible that the girl was sent by terrorists in order to probe Israeli defenses and draw the soldiers out of their positions. A calculation may have been made by the terrorists that, if the girl were shot, it would hand their side a propaganda victory. Terrorists have proven themselves willing to sacrifice anyone and anything in order to achieve propaganda victories. They are aiming for the hearts and minds and do not seem to care about casualties.

Israel is a republic with proper mechanisms in place, including a free press. Therefore, I believe that the Palestinians should seek redress for their grievances through democratic, legal means, and renounce violence, in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. I believe that the Israelis would respond in kind, although patience would be required.

Violence is not the answer. Patience and understanding is the answer. The past cannot be changed. It is recorded in the history books. Everyone can read about it and judge events for themselves. Only the future can be changed. A future with peace, understanding and shared purpose is better than a future with continual conflict and violence. A future with prosperity, education, and freedom of speech is better than a future with poverty, war, and animosity.

Violence is necessary only in regimes where there is no freedom of speech, and the government is a ruthless dictatorship. An example of this would be Iran, the chief sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East.

A case in point would be the Roman conquest of Britain. The Romans committed many atrocities. They were ten times worse than the Israelis by any measure one would care to apply. However, in time, the natives accepted the Roman Peace. There were historical wrongs committed by the Romans, but the natives set those events aside and moved forward. They realized that there were advantages brought by the Romans, such as unification, order, trade, luxuries, entertainment, technology, roads, and law. The Romans were not all bad, but were better than some of the alternatives at the time, such as the various barbarian tribes, bandits, and warlords. In time, the natives came to think of themselves as Roman. Like the Romans, the Israelis are not perfect. However, the Israeli state offers many advantages. It is one of the better systems of government in the Middle East. Those who expect a perfection solution or a perfect government will always be disappointed. They will never find what they are looking for.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spain: More Advanced than the U.S.

Spain now has a nasal spray for medical marijuana patients. Spanish patients can say goodbye to the ill effects arising from smoking.

It would be available in the U.S., too, but--well, we have the DEA to thank for that.
The DEA is opposed to scientific or medical research and all democratic efforts by citizens to remove even the tiniest brick from the wall of Prohibition.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

In Retrospect... Why Not?

I used to think all Christianity was opposed to homosexuality.

That seemed to be the case in the 1970's, with the exception of MCC, Metropolitan Community Church, which was formed by and for gays.

There used to be so much hostility expressed by Christian leaders, as represented by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that I despaired of there ever being peace, and viewed Christianity as the great enemy. Voices of moderation seemed few and far between.

Jump to 2010. Now it seems even the Presbyterians are jumping on the gay boat. They join the Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians and who knows who else. That is quite a significant chunk of the mainstream Protestant Christian community.

In retrospect, why not? There is nothing inherently about homosexuality that opposes Christianity in any way, shape, or form. As a matter of fact, there are practical benefits that arise for the denomination that welcomes gays. Rather than driving gays and their families away from the Church, the Church is saying, listen, we need you, stay, and join us. Let us worship together.

From a historical point of view, gays have been in the Church forever, and there have been gay Popes. It could be argued that Christianity would not exist today without gays. I think that gays have played a central role in the Church throughout history, in part due to the policy of the Catholic church, which required priests and nuns to remain celibate. Of course, such a rule encouraged gays to join the Church in large numbers and receive the protection, dignity and privileges of the religious class. The rule was intended to keep heterosexuals out of the religious orders, to avoid misunderstandings and resulting scandals, and it was effective.

Before Christianity, gays played the role of medicine man, shaman, and seer.

I remain atheist on philosophical grounds, although I must say, Protestant Christianity is looking more impressive by the minute, especially in contrast to other beliefs such as Catholicism or Islam. The one key ingredient in Protestantism, beautiful and powerful, is its adaptability. Other religions seem carved in stone, fixed in time, denying the reality that is all around them, withering before the piercing light of science. Protestant believers, like their marvelous ancestors, adapt and thrive, as they always have throughout history.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Labor Strikes in China?

What's that? You didn't know that workers had strikes in China? I didn't, either, before today. Officially tolerated strikes, at that. The Chinese workers are fed up with a wage freeze that has lasted two years. So they walked.

My reaction: good for them! Nothing could make me feel better about China than a sign of democratic activity, especially if it is met by official toleration. I think that world leaders should commend China for its respect of worker's rights in those instances where strikes occur that are organized by the workers themselves.

Not everyone feels the way I do, of course. In recent talks, the Japanese government scolded China's Premier for permitting the strikes. Japan has called for "transparent labor policies in China." Translation: no strikes should ever be tolerated for any reason, and workers who strike should be sent to China's version of the Gulag.

I read about this in a recent news article from the Associated Press, which was strangely altered in The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, because all news regarding workers' rights is ignored, whenever media sources calculate that they can get away with it. Other media outlets chose to focus on China's position regarding North Korea or China's export of rare metals, topics that seem boring by comparison.

Democracy in China would be like a dream come true for the entire world. No greater guarantee of world peace could ever arise than a genuine Chinese Republic--with representatives from Tibet and Taiwan. (Taiwan would probably unify with China, if China evolved into a Republic.) I would like to see the Dalai Lama serving as Speaker of the House in the first Chinese Congress.

The substance of the Associated Press article: "Premier Wen Jiabao told a visiting Japanese delegation Sunday that Japanese companies operating in China should address workers' unhappiness over low wages that he says led to labor disputes this year."

I feel no sympathy for companies that have exported American, Japanese and European jobs over to China, throwing millions of their fellow citizens out of work, all in the name of cheaper labor costs and feeble environmental regulations. Outsourcing to China is an obvious attempt at exploitation, either of our shared planetary environment or of the Chinese.

Our government has permitted the exportation of middle class jobs due to the influence of money in American politics. All the Republicans and many of the Democrats have sold out to wealthy interests. However, the consequences of global warming will harm not only the poor, but the rich robber barons as well, whose descendants will inherit a much different planet Earth from the one that I grew up in. America will be a much different place, as well, with many poor, few rich, and just a tiny middle class.

The rich thought they could dispense with the middle class, but as it turns out, their own destiny is intertwined with that of the professional classes. The wealthy classes, too, will find their privileged lifestyles exported to China or eliminated altogether, although the process is likely to take longer than a single generation.

The biggest problem confronting H. Sapiens at this time regards the inability to appreciate and evaluate very long-term consequences of actions. It is rare to encounter an individual who can plan twenty years in ahead; how much rarer to encounter an individual that can forecast a century ahead. It is clear that many of the rich owners lack the capacity to foresee the long-term consequences of their business decisions. Hence, the problem with global warming and with the reduction of the middle class, which has been historically important in maintaining social order. The appeal of extremes, either communism or fascism, has always been greater to those without much property than to those with vested interests, such as a house, a car, and a college education.

H. Sapiens never needed to see far into the future before, because the environment took care of itself for the most part, barring the occasional flood, drought, earthquake or volcanic explosion. But the times, they are a-changing.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Iran's Barbarism

Iran's barbarism knows no bounds. They are preparing to stone a woman to death.

The manner in which Iran treats an innocent woman gives an indication as to how Iran will behave once in possession of nuclear weapons. If Iran shows no mercy, justice, or wisdom in its treatment of its own citizens, how much forbearance can the citizens of foreign countries expect?

Here is a description of how the sentence is to be carried out:

The Islamic Penal Code of Iran is very specific regarding the details of how stoning should be executed. Article 102 states that men shall be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the execution. Article 104 states, referring to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones (pebbles).” In some cases, if a victim can escape from the ditch during the stoning, they will be freed. However, because women are buried up to their breasts and men only at their waists, women will have a smaller chance of escaping than men.

-from The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women.

It is the radical Muslims who discredit Islam. Not the U.S., Israel, or any other Western country. Incidents such as this explain the distaste that many Westerners have for Islam, including the so-called "far-right" political parties in Europe, who have no desire to see this kind of barbarism introduced into their own society. It is high time for Islamic countries to emerge from the Middle Ages and respect the rights of women, gays, and minorities. Abandoning torture as a punishment would be a good first step. Freedom of speech would be a second.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Chilean Miners

I have been impressed by reports of the thirty-three trapped Chilean miners organizing their activities and living environment and deporting themselves with courage and common sense. I was disappointed that their story was bumped off the headlines of Google News today. I would rather read about them than about the latest Republican shenanigans.

I find it difficult to imagine how I would fare trapped in a subterranean cavern for four months without sunlight and with a high heat and humidity (85 F by one report, 95 F by another). I am glad that the miners have each other for emotional support and that they seem to get along well with one another. A single bit of bad blood could change the situation. Having worked together for a long time must have resulted in a cooperative spirit among the miners. Other positive aspects are that the miners have access to artificial light and have three lifelines to the surface, through which rescuers pour food and water.

These miners are really cool. Here's a great article on what they're doing.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Negative Ads

It is unfortunate that negative advertising can sway elections. Educated voters should evaluate the source as well as the message of a television commercial.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Reporting on Science

This scientist's editorial on CNN.com resonated with me. I have been disappointed with the sensationalist journalism regarding scientific research. Too many reporters seem to have the idea that great leaps are made with every incremental bit of research. Or perhaps they are just trying to grab eyeballs through any means possible.

NORML makes a persuasive case that the media censors all research on cannabis, unless there can be found a negative angle to said research, in which case the research will be misinterpreted, exaggerated, and placed as a top story. "Cannabinoids fight cancer" is deemed unsuitable as a headline, but "cannabis causes cancer" has been used many times. In case my reader is curious, certain cannabinoids do demonstrate cancer-fighting properties, although no one should claim "cannabis cures cancer," which would fall into the same bad habit of our mainstream media, exaggeration. Chocolate also possesses cancer-fighting properties in the form of antioxidants, but no one should claim "chocolate cures cancer," either. As for cannabis smoking causing cancer, I am sure that in time, it would, as would smoking anything at all. The responsible consumer should use either by vaporization or through digestion. However, cannabis smoking is much less harmful than cigarette smoking. For one thing, cigarettes contain harmful additives that cause additional damage above and beyond that caused by tobacco. Also, the THC in cannabis activates the coughing reflex, which helps to expel foreign material. Finally, a typical cigarette smoker smokes far more cigarettes per day than a cannabis smoker partakes of joints or bong hits.

Even politicians are often frustrated with the media, because it instigates continual conflict, even when there is none. Some politicians pander to the media's love of conflict and tension.

On another note, I saw a recent photo of Obama yesterday and was struck by how beautiful he is. He had a serious, even somber expression, befitting the times. He seems to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. The occupation of President must be incredibly demanding, more so than in times past. He has a team to help him make decisions, but being a perfectionist, agonizes over every miscalculation, in sharp contrast to Bush, who was only concerned with his poll numbers.

It does not help matters that the Republicans oppose all his legislation just for the sake of opposing. I wish he had a worthy and virtuous opposition to contend with, but there is only one sane choice for the electorate, the Democrats, whatever their shortcomings. The Republicans are "looney tunes." The list of subjects that Republican politicians do not understand is a mile long. That they have sold out is understood. Their allegiance to their own party is unquestioning and absolute, which is why they vote as a block. It would be refreshing if some Republicans were mavericks and voted based upon their conscience. They seem to have no concern over the consequences of their actions, consequences that must be endured by the electorate.

Concern voiced by Republicans over the national debt ignores several important facts. Reagan spent his way out of a recession, too. Also, Bush spent trillions on pointless foreign wars. Why is it OK to spend trillions on Iraq, but not billions on the U.S.? I prefer the U.S. over Iraq. I think if a person pays taxes, he should be confident that his money will be spent on his own country, rather than another country.

It is true that the national debt is too high, but now is not the time to address that issue. There was a President who should have addressed that problem. He inherited a robust economy. His name was George W. Bush. Instead, he overspent, just as Republican Presidents do on a consistent basis, ever since Reagan.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How the Republicans Might Win in November

If the Republicans do pick up seats in November, it will be due to the combined propaganda of The Christian Science Monitor, FOX News, and The Wall Street Journal. These media sources are dedicated propaganda factories. They are always on the side of the rich against the poor. However, not everyone is aware of their agenda. They may confuse enough voters from the lower and middle classes to vote against their self-interests. If that is the case, then the standard of living for most Americans will continue its long and steady decline.

I used to imagine that Republicans, who often talk about job growth and economic expansion, were competent stewards of the economy, even if I did not agree with them on social issues. For this reason, I invested much of my 401(k) savings in stocks, rather than bonds. All such illusions vanished during the Bush Presidency, when the Republicans created the conditions that resulted in the economic meltdown. America has a short memory indeed if it runs straight back to the party that abused her. The Republicans have changed nothing. They think and behave in the exact same ways that they did while they were making catastrophic blunders. They have not learned anything from previous errors. Blind faith in free market capitalism is not a formula for success. Government regulation and oversight of the markets is necessary in order to prevent "boom-and-bust" cycles.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, August 23, 2010


The professor told several students today that I upset the grade average curve, which makes her less likely to award the class bonus points. My buddy turned to me and said he was glad he wasn't taking any more classes with me, because I did so well on the tests. I said I didn't blame him.

I treat studying and test-taking like a game. I like taking tests. I find it exciting. One student called me an overachiever. I want to score higher than anyone else. I look at it as evidence that I've still got "it," and will be able to handle whatever comes my way in the future. I feel more confident about the future, because I am doing so well. I thrive on the validation that I receive from others. To observe people nodding when I speak and to see admiration in other people's eyes is pleasant.

I was pleased by the way I handled the rude guy in class. After several students and I got together and told him the law of the land, he shut up during the lectures and let the professor speak. I thought he would carry resentment and bitterness, but I was mistaken. He too wants validation from others. He feels a constant need to talk and receive feedback from others. He talks incessantly only due to his craving for continual stimulation. Perhaps that is also the reason he is a chain smoker. He is friendly, though, and has learned to respect the boundaries of others as best he can.

My policy is to ignore him whenever possible, without ever seeming obviously rude. I respond to his questions in order to avoid any appearance of hostility, but my answers tend to be brief, without followup questions, and certainly without suggesting any new topics for discussion. In time, he gets distracted and begins rattling off to a less discreet student, and I am left in peace.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spam-Free Since May

My blog has been spam-free since the end of May. My secret is not dumb luck or even my obscurity, though it is true this is a rather obscure blog, receiving twenty hits per day, half of which are robots. (I'm amused by webmasters that brag about their number of hits, unaware that many are robots rather than human beings.) I am not prepared to believe that hits from Russia, Estonia, China, Japan, or Brazil represent human beings.

I have modified the default behavior of Blogger in order to deceive and ensnare spambots. Spammers continue in their attempts to post on my blog, but such attempts fail. Their posts disappear into cyberspace without my being aware of them, while the IP addresses are captured and exposed. My efforts have bagged over sixty different IP addresses so far.

The only comments I ever have to moderate are the ones from human beings, and I do appreciate the vast majority of them. Since disabling the "Anonymous Comment" feature, there have been no more idiots.

Anthony Cea over at Forum Poster's Union suggested that two percent of spammers might be able to defeat my anti-spam defense. That may be so. However, I have not observed any breach so far. I think that spammers don't bother trying to defeat unusual defenses. They move on to easier and more common varieties of prey. Penetrating the defense of this blog would be like invading Sealand. What would be the point?
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where has the Sense of Adventure Gone?

From Dutch Teenager Sets Sail, "in April she won a court case against Dutch social services, who had argued that the voyage could harm her emotional and social development."

It sounds to me like the Dutch social services have much to learn concerning emotional and social development.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

I Would Definitely Join the Green Party

I love Australian politics. The five profiled in that article are not representative of the whole of Australia's Parliament, but they sound like a breath of fresh air, compared to American politics. Perhaps the allure is based on nothing more than the novelty to me. We do not have a viable Green Party in the U.S., due to our winner-takes-all electoral system, which prevents candidates from minority parties from winning any seats in Congress.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

"Encompass the Whole World"

The dictator of Iran threatens the entire world. For the moment, his threats are idle boasts from a madman, reminiscent of Mussolini. I wonder what will be the case when his words are backed up with nuclear missiles? Perhaps the U.S. invaded the wrong country. I would have preferred to see Ah-madman dangling at the end of a noose, although Saddam's head-popping was popcorn-worthy. Whatever one feels about the Iraqi war, the end of a tyrant can only be applauded.

Ah-madman has suppressed moderate Iranians, denied the Holocaust, spoken in favor of the obliteration of Israel, supported terrorism, and is now pursuing nuclear weapons with a single-minded mania. I believe that, should he acquire nuclear weapons, he will use them. He discounts the suffering of others in order to pursue a narrow agenda of egoism.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Friday, August 20, 2010

Junk Science

How can a scientist who fudges research retain his job, let alone a publishing contract for yet another book? Moral minds, indeed.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

The Boy That Drank Tea

I drank milk substitutes, such as soybean milk, as a child. I don't remember the reason why. It may have been thought that milk gave me a sore throat or caused a rash under my chin. My father was indeed lactose-intolerant and still is. Lactose intolerance is common among non-European peoples, and in particular sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East. Milk was a daily and required complement to our school cafeteria lunches. Due to my note from my doctor, I was allowed to drink tea instead of milk, which engendered envy and hate from a few of my peers. I remember that there was one boy who believed the whole milk-allergy was a scam. One day at the end of the school year, he pointed his finger at me and screamed, "Ya lie about the milk! Ya lie! And ya lie all the time! Motherf--er!" I thought he had lost his mind. He was voted most popular boy in school, so apparently he did not scream at everybody, just the boy that drank tea.

I had not been aware of conducting any scam. If anyone had concocted a scam, it was my pediatrician. He probably did the best he could under the circumstances. It was the 1970s. How much did doctors really know back then? They were telling people not to eat eggs because of the cholesterol. They were telling people margarine was healthier than butter. I remember eating margarine on toast all the time. Now we know that butter is better, and eggs are OK, because they have equal amounts of the "good" cholesterol and the "bad" cholesterol, and plenty of nutritious protein as well.

After that incident, I stopped drinking tea, and found that I liked milk and even preferred chocolate milk to tea. Today, I drink milk without any concern. I can drink as much milk as I please. A Chinese friend of my acquaintance is also able to drink milk, despite statistics showing that 95% of the inhabitants of China are lactose-intolerant. I think that exposing oneself to milk products is the best way to cure lactose intolerance, at least for those with a mild aversion such as I had. The wikipedia article on lactose intolerance notes that Japan has a high incidence of genetically-determined lactose intolerance, yet milk is becoming more popular and lactose intolerance is declining. This observation suggests behavior can modify the body's innate problems with lactose. It may be that certain bacteria in the intestines can take care of lactose after they have had a chance to colonize the intestine.

In a similar way, the best way to avoid allergies is to expose oneself to the maximum number of allergens on a regular basis and also to germs. I believe that most people are far too concerned about germs. Germs are good practice for the immune system. I eat food that has fallen to the floor, and I do not bother with bandaging or disinfecting minor cuts. If the immune system does not get any practice, then it will go a-gunning for the body and start destroying bodily tissue. Besides, I want my immune system to have a long and comprehensive memory about all the pathogens in my environment. When the day comes that I really do suffer a serious infection, I hope my immune system remembers the bug and swats it with just the right flyswatter.

It is an unwise experiment to attempt to live a sterile existence. We are not individuals, but teams, and the human component is outnumbered by the microbial component by about a billion to one. Bacteria produce vitamin K and several B vitamins in our large intestine. Mitochondria in our cells have their own DNA, separate and distinct from our own, and are thought to derive from an ancient microbe. I quote from the wikipedia article: "they are believed to be originally derived from endosymbiotic prokaryotes." Mitochondria are essential for life. A fascinating wikipedia article on the origin of the relationship between mitochondria and ourselves is found here. Some bacteria act as our allies and fight the truly harmful bacteria. I do not know of any instances where viruses benefit humankind, but perhaps one day viruses will be used to replace defective gene sequences.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Possible Cause for Hyperactivity

Pesticides have hidden costs that seem to be borne by random individuals of the population.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Good Riddance to the Shock Doc

It is with pleasure that I observe Dr. Laura's on-air implosion. For decades, she has been a minor voice of arrogant ignorance, doing discredit to her academic credentials. Once again, she has been exposed for what she really is--only this time, everyone is paying attention.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Beg to Differ with LA Times

A recent L.A. Times editorial laments the boycott of Target by MoveOn.org, describing it as "distasteful."

Since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can give as much as they please to political campaigns, the only way that ordinary citizens can counter the influence of money is through collective action. To pretend otherwise is to live in La-La Land, which may be where the L.A. Times writer lives. Could the L.A. Times, which receives significant advertising revenue from Target Corp., be biased? Heavens, no! Perish the thought!

As to whether the boycott will be effective, I think anyone connected to the gay community has a good idea that it will be. I know that my partner and I have steered several people to "Tar-gay" over the years and praised it, acting as free advertisers for the company. Will I praise Target in the future? No. Will gays continue to shop there? Yes, but the boycott will have an impact as word about it spreads through the community. The $150,000 contribution to the bigot in Minnesota will have a $15,000,000 price tag attached to it before it is over. If I need something, I can buy it at Old Navy or Home Depot, which have better systems of inventory control. The last two times I went to Target, they did not even have what I was looking for--common items such as colored pencils and rechargeable batteries. Target either has a poor system of inventory control or the local store has an incompetent manager.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

A Weird Dream

I had a vivid dream last week, but hesitated to blog about it, because it seemed strange. But dreams are strange. The rational mind takes a break, and the irrational mind takes charge. When I was in first grade, I was plagued by nightmares. I used to dream that my teacher was a fire-breathing human, or what in Dungeon Crawl is termed a Draconian--half-man, half-dragon. Night terrors scared me until I told my father about them, and he gave me advice. He said that nothing in the world could touch me. He and my mother would protect me, no matter what. Anything imagined was just that, imagination. It was not real. The junk on television or in books was not real. They were just ideas. Somehow, I learned how to sleep without having any nightmares. If something scary arose during a dream, I would smile in my dream and say, "Ha-ha, you're not real! And I get to choose what I dream, so I'm not going to dream about you!" However, this did have an undesirable side-effect--I began to forget most of my dreams. Today, a remembered dream is a rare event that happens once a year at most.

As a young man in my twenties, I had a handful of remembered dreams. Due to reading many of Anne Rice's earlier books, I dreamed a fair amount about vampires, and had dreams where a monster or killer was getting ready to do me in. Sometimes I tried to move, but found that I was paralyzed, and wondered why I could not move. I remember trying to shout for help and not being able to talk. I even tried whispering, but could not even do that. I tried to run or hide, but my body would not obey my commands. My paralysis frightened and confused me even more. I read later that during the REM stage, many of the muscles are in fact paralyzed, with the exception of the pupils and the involuntary muscles. I still do not understand why I could not move inside the dream, however. In dreams, one should be able to do anything one wants.

Last week, I dreamed that I was a guest in a friend's house. A married couple was lodged just down the hall from me. The wife discovered that I was a medical professional and decided she needed my assistance. She told me she was infected by a rare African virus that caused chronic constipation. Would I be so kind as to perform an enema? I refused, out of concern for what her husband might say. Besides, enemas are not the first line of treatment for constipation anymore. They were more common in the past, but today, revised notions of modesty have made the practice unpopular. A superior treatment would be a laxative of some kind, I advised. Besides, I've never performed an enema.

She left my room, "undeterred" in more ways than one. A few minutes later, she returned with her husband in tow. He repeated the request and insisted it was OK by him, because he was tired of performing the procedure himself, and felt like I would do a more professional job. Without further ado, the wife stripped off her dress and panties and prostrated herself on a couch, awaiting treatment. The husband handed me the enema kit and said, "Go to it, sport."
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Like a Diamond in a Dumpster

The difference between a good and a bad teacher is like the difference between night and day. At my college, I've seen the good and the bad. Half of my professors have been poor, doing little more than reciting the notes to the Powerpoint slides given to them by the textbook publisher. They do not teach, but function as wardens, taking attendance and marking grades. This is probably due to the low wages paid to the professors. Competent people expect to earn more money. It is as simple as that. Those who settle for less expect to work less.

Half of my teachers have been good. One of these left to work at another college, which did not surprise me. Another of my teachers is making an extra effort to be accurate and informative. She does not rely solely upon notes given to her by others, but offers relevant anecdotes from her career as a nurse. She remembers the names of all of the students, smiles, answers questions in a simple and straightforward manner, and actually teaches, which is rare and unusual. Finding her in my college was like finding a diamond in a dumpster. I do what I can to let her know that she is appreciated and that the students are glad she is around. I plan to write a glowing review on the evaluation form as soon as it becomes available.

Bad teachers are the result of systemic problems in a school. Time and money must be budgeted to ensure quality in the teaching profession, but college administrators lack both in today's depressed economy. New teachers should be mentored and monitored by experienced teachers. At my college, there is none of that. The experienced teachers do not sit in and listen to the lectures of the new teachers. Therefore, some of the new teachers fall into bad habits, which become reinforced over time. There is a disease making the rounds among these professors known as "Lazybones," characterized by lack of effort and enthusiasm.

Bad teachers are not detected unless a student complains. I complained about one bad apple a few months ago in a letter to the Dean. The subject of my complaint has not been seen on campus again. A fishy excuse has been circulating about his leaving the country for a "vacation," so it would seem my letter was effective. However, it should not be incumbent upon students like me to weed out the bad apples. I am not always motivated to write a letter to the Dean. In fact, that was the first time I had ever done so in my life. As long as a professor is not insulting, I am inclined to do nothing, because no one is paying me for consultation, and I have other things to do with my time. I can overlook incompetence, but not arrogant incompetence.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, August 16, 2010


I thought about AIDS this morning. My memory was jogged by a recent media story about a German pop star who had sex with men without telling them she was HIV-positive. In Germany, knowingly having sex while infected with HIV without informing one's partner is a crime. I believe it should be. The only downside to criminalization is that some people may choose not to get tested.

AIDS changed the trajectory of my own life. When I first came out, I indulged in the bar scene, although I avoided high-risk activities. I always used condoms. My policy was that every person in the world is to be considered infected with HIV until proven otherwise by a laboratory test conducted on the same day. This is the policy that guided my actions and resulted in my remaining HIV negative. The basic rules are that condoms must always be used, inebriation avoided, and oral is a thousand times safer than anal. It is easy to become infected with HIV through anal sex, because the rectum is only one cell thick in some places and is poorly lubricated. Microscopic tears can occur through which the HIV virus can enter the body. The proper use of a latex condom and the internal application of a water-soluble lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly, can reduce risk substantially. It is possible to contract HIV through vaginal sex as well. Many who become infected may not perceive the symptoms of AIDS until several years later, unless they are tested. Some of the best-looking people are carriers, functioning as Angels of Death.

There are lesser diseases as well, such as herpes and warts. Just because people prefer not to talk about certain things does not mean they are not there. Silence is the enemy. If people are not aware of things that can harm them, they are more likely to fall victim. It is better to know all the risks and all the precautions one might take to avoid those risks.

Apprehension over the prevalence of HIV in the gay community steered me away from the bar scene and towards abstinence, then monogamy. Monogamy is a good plan for long-term stability and happiness for many people, which is why gays like me want the right to marry.

Some of my friends and acquaintances took more risks. At least one is dead now, a man who invited me to his thirtieth birthday party, only to die four years later of pneumonia aggravated by his untreated AIDS. I remember asking him whether he had been tested, and he replied he did not want to know. I chided him for that, but he said when the good Lord wants him, he will be taken. He read the Bible, although he would have profited more from reading medical literature. I used to ask all of my gay friends whether they had been tested. For my part, I was tested three or four times at free health clinics. The mere fact of getting tested was viewed as proof of promiscuity by the ignorant, including my one girlfriend, but in fact I was super-vigilant. Besides, the clinics gave free condoms, which I shared with friends. Visiting the clinics served to reinforce my opinions about the importance of safe sex and the risks of casual sex.

A dear friend of mine had unprotected sex with his boyfriend at the age of seventeen. I don't understand why anyone would not use a condom. Condoms are cheap and easy to use. They are sold everywhere. It does not make sense to risk an incurable disease for a little bit more sensation during a sexual act. He was head-over-heels in love and believed his boyfriend's vows of monogamy. ("He swore to God, and we were blood brothers.") Little did he know that the boyfriend was sleeping with another man on the side. Both became infected with HIV. I felt angry at the stranger who had infected them and wanted to know who it was, but the identity was unknown. Gays who infect other gays do more harm to the gay community than all the homophobes combined. The gay community has ways of dealing with such individuals. In the gay bars, sometimes a stranger would take me aside and whisper in my ear that a man that I was with had the plague and was sleeping with men without telling them. If I asked him, and he denied it, then I determined whether he was lying, and if he was, I would have nothing more to do with him. In all cases, the people sharing information with me were honest. They were not malicious rumor-mongers, but were trying to protect fellow members of the community. It boggles the mind that an HIV-positive individual would risk infecting another human being just for sex. That is why I support the German law that criminalizes such behavior.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Legalize Suicide

I think that suicide should be legal and that the State should assist it in certain situations, although I would not want to provide examples, as it would be insensitive to the surviving family and friends.

If life seems an unbearable burden, then an individual should be instructed in methods of securing a painless and clean exit that will not cause undue distress to anyone else. An emphasis should be placed upon getting one's financial affairs in order and informing friends and family of the fatal decision, so as to lessen the shock and trauma of survivors.

There are many parallels between the laws against suicide and the laws against drugs. In each case, the State presumes to know more than the individual about how to manage his own body. The State claims to have an extraordinary interest in what is consumed by the individual's body. Yet the State is unwilling to provide nutritious food or shelter, resulting in many people being homeless or not eating a proper diet. Although the State is gravely concerned if a person smokes a joint or attempts suicide, malnutrition is not an issue of any concern, nor obesity, high-fat, or high-sugar diets. The State is therefore a two-faced hypocrite.

Is it the role of government to ensure that an individual makes the "right" personal choices from the government's point of view? How is it the prerogative of the State to forbid the ingestion of certain substances or to dictate an individual must continue living?

There is one area where the parallels between suicide and drug use disappear. Enormous resources--billions of dollars--are devoted to apprehending marijuana users, but tiny sums are devoted to suicide prevention. Firing up a joint is deemed of vital concern, but terminating a life is not. There are no undercover operations underway to detect and apprehend the many suicidal individuals. The underlying subtext is, "go for it." Anyone interested in suicide can research a variety of methods on the Internet, and no one is capable of stopping them. Even in prison, it is a simple matter to commit suicide by using a sharpened object to slash a wrist or any length of fiber suitable for a noose.

The reason people do not commit suicide is that most people enjoy life or think that it is necessary, which is similar to the reason most people remain sober. If heroin, meth, or crack were legal, and everyone were given free samples, usage among most Americans would not increase over what it is today. People are not quite as stupid as predicted by our draconian laws. However, in the case of an addict, he will find his poison, whatever the law says. Addicts need treatment to address their addiction. Prison time simply introduces them to different varieties of criminals.

There are certain life situations that make suicide an appealing choice. Incurable medical conditions are one such scenario, but there are others. If freedom is a societal value, and if it is what distinguishes our country from others, then we should permit individuals the ultimate freedom to decide the destiny of their own body.

However, suicide in response to depression should be minimized, although it cannot be prevented. Depression goes untreated too often. Men believe that depression, and in particular visible manifestations such as crying, are a sign of weakness. In reality, depression is a physical, medical condition involving the brain. The brain suffers from problems just like any other organ. Some problems are minor, while others are quite severe. Yet a person with diabetes suffers from less stigma than a person with depression.

To recover from depression, people treat themselves, using food, exercise, booze, pills, pot, or other substances. I have listed the remedies in order of their estimated popularity. Exercise may be one of the more effective remedies. Some people resort to substances, however. Hence the drug problem that the Republicans want to answer with assault rifles, draconian prison terms, and other punitive measures. The result? Over two million Americans are behind bars. Our prison population is larger than that of any other country on the planet Earth. Yet the rates of drug use have remained fairly constant.

A more realistic method must be adopted to tackle mental health issues. More psychologists are needed to treat depressed individuals. Those who contemplate suicide based upon a depressed state should be offered free mental health counseling and free medication. This should be given free of charge, because it is in the interest of society for people to get better. Rather than funding a Drug Enforcement Agency to vandalize state-licensed marijuana clinics, the government should fund a Mental Health Agency to counsel people that are suffering from depression.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

True Blood and Being Human

True Blood is the best show on television now, although that is not saying much. I do find faults in the show, but all are overcome by the generally good writing, camera work, and acting. It is a quality American show about vampires that is as good as Being Human, a British series about vampires that may be sadly defunct. Being Human was more sophisticated with better character development and more dialogue. Of the two, I prefer Being Human, and I hope the series comes back to life as do vampires. However, True Blood is sexier and intoxicating, with the same appeal as The Sopranos. An underground society is envisioned in which the laws and customs of mainstream society no longer apply, and characters do as they please in a state of anarchy due to their extraordinary personal power. There are many parallels between The Sopranos and True Blood, such as the hierarchy of vampires and the mafia hierarchy, and Eric the vampire, who owns a strip club like Tony Soprano's Ba-Da-Boom.

The dramatic scenes involving Bill and Sookie do not sound right to me. Bill seems like a twit rather than a romantic figure. However, the action scenes are good, and the catchy theme song became my ear worm. Anna Paquin, who plays Sookie, seems genuine in every scene, although she receives little support from Bill, who reminds me of Anne Rice's Louis, a somber vampire.

Why would shapeshifters bother with illegal pitbull fighting to make money? A shapeshifter could get away with almost anything by assuming the form of an animal. Shapeshifters can assume the form of birds and take to the air, or assume the form of a fish and swim in water. Why are vampires not capable of entering a house without invitation? That implies that vampires are supernatural beings, and an antagonistic supernatural force is protecting humans. What is the nature of said force? The True Blood Universe is not exclusively Christian, because a Maenad appeared in Season 2.

My predictions are that Sooki Stackhouse is a fairy, and Lafayette is a witch capable of magic. His lover is also a witch, but a better-educated one that knows how to use magic.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

How Not to Quit a Job

I can't condone the behavior of a flight attendant who quit his job in a spectacular fashion, but at least it was nonviolent. I am sick of reading about men who carry a handgun to work and kill people, followed by themselves. That was one of the things I dreaded when working in the corporate world, that one of our people might snap and begin shooting for no apparent reason. At least the FA displayed a sense of humor, although inappropriate.

I never created such a scene out at work. In every case that I quit, I did not cuss anybody out, but gave two weeks' notice, and shook hands with my former boss at the end of the day. My feelings and opinions I kept to myself, because no one was paying me for consultation. There is little to be gained by drama. It is better to save the dramatic flair for personal endeavors, such as writing, theater, or story-telling. Employers tend to be rather cold and calculating, and workers should be as well.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Monday, August 9, 2010


The Ancient Romans could have pacified Afghanistan as they pacified most of Britain. The reason why they could succeed, and we cannot, is ruthlessness. We cannot be ruthless, due to the nature of our position in the modern world and our ethical sensibility. I would not want to wake up in the morning and read headlines about massacres, crucifixions, and slave labor camps. Such wartime atrocities are not acceptable in the modern era, where the population is educated and sensitive to ethical matters. But that is how the Romans would handle the Taliban. In villages where the Taliban hid among the civilian inhabitants, the Romans would have massacred the adult males and sold the women and children into slavery. Prisoners would have been enslaved to work the mines of Afghanistan. Instead of being a drain on the treasury, Afghanistan would prove extremely lucrative, a profit-making center. The culture of the indigenous peoples would have been replaced to a large degree with the culture of the occupier. Taliban who were captured would have been crucified, their writhing bodies left upon the side of the road as an example to others. Lucius Accius wrote, "Let them hate, as long as they fear."

Due to political and ethical reasons, the U.S. cannot sink to the level of Romans and do what is necessary in order to secure victory. The same problem arose in Viet Nam. In a nutshell, this is why we should not be in Afghanistan, and why we opted to withdraw from Viet Nam. The inhabitants, in particular the leaders, seek to profit at our expense until such time as our inevitable withdrawal from their blighted land. Generations would be required to produce a population capable of arming itself against the Taliban and the fanaticism and ignorance associated with them. It is not cost-effective. Our money is better invested among our people than upon them. They are not grateful. They take our gifts of medicine, education, and roads, and return to us corruption, betrayal, and death. Such has been the way of Afghanistan for a long time. Republicans, who claim to oppose a welfare state, have created one in Afghanistan.

I do not know what can be salvaged out of the mess in Afghanistan. Possibly a small number of military outposts could be maintained to harass and spy upon any enemies in the area. In a secured area devoid of local and thus untrustworthy inhabitants, it might be possible to operate mines to obtain certain rare and useful metals for our nation. This might help to compensate our nation for its costly investment in Afghanistan. American miners could find work in Afghanistan, which would help to reduce the numbers of our unemployed. Of course, this is tantamount to colonization, which could result in the same political and ethical problems encountered by the British in the previous century. Any hint of a profit being made would be used to portray the U.S. as an occupier, an imperial power.

That is why I am for immediate withdrawal, because it is simpler and results in a cessation of further loss. Any other strategy results in continued loss. It is difficult for some to admit and then to embrace defeat. However, sometimes a refusal to admit defeat can lead to a temporary problem becoming a permanent one. Also, small problems have ways of snowballing into greater ones.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Kenku

In Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, I have seldom played a Kenku. I am unfamiliar with any stories concerning the Kenku race and have only encountered it in Dungeon Crawl, although I have a vague recollection of an obscure bird-race in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. (At one time, I knew by heart most of the monsters and their hit dice, armour class, and so on.) It was high time I gave one of the old birds a try.

Here is Burny the Fire Elementalist at my favorite location, the stairway leading to level eight of the Vaults, where he usually dies.

Upon reaching a certain level, the Kenku may take to the air--permanently, at no apparent cost in food. This means there is no danger posed by lava or water, no need to carry potions of levitation, and no need to memorize any flying spells. The downside is that the Kenku are a bit frail in terms of hit points, though more robust than Spriggans. I found that the Kenku's beak packed (pecked?) an impressive wallop during melee combat. It is advisable to practice Unarmed Combat until such time that a useful staff is found. I chose a staff of poison because it grants immunity to poison, poisons those struck by it, and the Kenku happen to be the most proficient race at Staves. Eventually, I seek a Staff of Air (resistance to electricity) or even better, a Staff of Conjurations or Fire (extra power when casting related spells).

My Kenku was handicapped by his failure to locate the Ecumenical Temple. He would have worshipped Sif Muna if he had found his altar. But a part of me wanted to see whether an atheist character could win the Orb. Also, if cast into the Abyss, my character could appeal to Logunu for a quick exit.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rude People

Most irritants are distractions. They are nothing more than that. The trick is to avoid overreacting to a minor distraction. Do not allow trivia to assume any real importance. Ignoring slights is a virtue. Not every insult merits a response. Pride is a vice if it requires active defense against every assault. Does one swat every mosquito? There are legions. Some must be ignored. There is more to life than mosquitoes.

Anger is one of the more difficult emotions. Once it arises, it must be lived. The storm must spend itself. While angry, avoid others. Let the anger play itself out. Afterward, it may be observed as a past event. When anger is observed in the past tense, one may decide whether it was merited or not. If the past anger seems ridiculous, then the anger was pointless and should be forgotten. If the past anger seems justified, then there may be steps that need to be taken, such as avoiding the person or thing that caused the anger.

Some people lack a filter. They share whatever offensive thought that pops into their consciousness without any concern for its effects upon others. This vice limits the social success they will achieve in their lifetime. It defeats many of their plans. This is their problem, not the problem of anyone else. A rude person might as well have CRIPPLE tattooed upon their forehead in bold red letters. The superior man thinks before he speaks.

Rude people create noise. There will always be noise. To be preoccupied with noise betrays a lack of clarity. Decide what is important. Focus upon what is important.

Irritations recede in time. The rude people will not become permanent friends; or once having been a friend, will not remain a friend. They are ghosts, and time is the only requirement for their extinction. Soon they are forgotten, irrelevant figures in the distant past.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments


I'm amazed that a Democrat has joined with a Republican (in California) to seek resumption of same-sex marriages. More and more conservatives and Republicans are coming out for gay marriage these days. I almost suspect an elaborate hidden trap.

I would not rush into gay marriage, if I were a single gay man. It is a serious business, with many of the downsides of heterosexual marriage. Divorce can be costly. I wonder how the inevitable betrayals and separations will play themselves out in the legal system and in the media?

However, for those of us already in long-term, committed relationships, marriage will guarantee many practical legal benefits, such as medical insurance, hospital visitation, inheritance, and so on. The one I am waiting for is the green card.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Swapping in Scrabble

One of the better strategies I had forgotten about in Scrabble is to swap tiles often. Most games at the higher levels are determined by who gets the wild card and "s" tiles. If there is not a good move to play, then it is often helpful to swap out. This is especially true for players that are behind in score, and a better idea earlier in the game, when the wild cards and "s" tiles have not been played.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments


Attrition in these biology courses is awful. After the second test, we lost a third of the students. The day after, another four dropped. I was surprised and saddened to see some go, because they had succeeded in the previous class, and I even knew some names. Dropping means they either have to take it over or else change major. I would be appalled to have to drop a class, but I guess if ya gotta, ya gotta. I did not think I did well on the tests myself, prior to receiving my grades, but discovered that I made straight-A's. In fact, due to bonus points, I have a triple-digit average for the moment.

The tests weren't easy. I am tempted to suspect they were easy, because my grades were high, but I struggled with them. They were tricky. Some questions had multiple technically correct answers, but only one was considered correct. One had to select between them based upon what was particularly emphasized during the lecture. Other times, concepts had to be reinterpreted in a different context than the one we had studied in our notes, which made rote memorization inadequate. Long hours of studying were required as well. Those students that did not prepare adequately were exposed. I studied about eight hours per test.

My career as a computer programmer helped me in the test-taking department. When I think back to the cryptic user specifications I received as work orders and the cryptic languages I used, it makes me smile.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

The Excuse

In reading news articles concerning the fight against marijuana Prohibition, it is striking how often law enforcement officials speak out in favor of Prohibition.

There are many pragmatic reasons for law enforcement to favor Prohibition, such as the lucrative seizures of property that occur under current laws. Any random search, whether justified or not, gains a small measure of validation, if not legitimization, by the discovery of a trace amount of marijuana. On paper, there is an appearance of being "tough on crime" due to a high amount of marijuana-related arrests, which are easier than arresting suspects for violent crimes. Thus, incompetent police are protected by marijuana laws, as they can manufacture artificially high statistics by persecuting harmless marijuana users, whose only "crime" is the possession of a plant that in earlier times was grown and used by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

Ethical law enforcement officials require moral justification for Prohibition, rather than base pragmatic motives. For this group, there are memories of The Excuse, recited by many apprehended criminals, both in court and while in custody. "I did this or that because I was high at the time." A substance is implicated, be it booze, pot, or some other drug. Why should a criminal accept personal responsibility? Blame the drug instead. If the drug is at fault, then the individual is free of sin. Due to its widespread availability, pot is likely to be blamed at least some of the time. There is also guilt by association. The fact that some criminals are addicts who abuse a wide range of substances, cannabis being just one item on a lengthy menu, reinforces the notion that marijuana is tied to criminality. While Prohibition endures, an association exists between criminality and marijuana by necessity. Association does not prove causation, but this is not always clear to those who examine an issue from afar, without knowing many of the facts.

Does pot lead to crime? No, it does not. But how is a policeman to know that? Without accurate information, it is difficult to determine what is true and what is false. Perhaps the federal government should initiate a bold experiment and begin listening to the scientists that have evaluated over several decades the effects of cannabis on the human body. The science is crystal clear in regard to marijuana. It is less harmful than alcohol by any measure one would care to apply. It is non-toxic, non-addictive, and has medicinal qualities for many users. It is also an emphatically American product, used by American patriots since the founding of our Republic.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Why Not Change?

To remain the same always is to be complacent. Change is good. The question is never, why change, but why not change? Why not modify behavior patterns? Why not try a different approach? Why not relocate? Why not abandon an unpleasant scenario for a new life?

Imagination is one of the most important traits in modern humans, allowing us to rehearse future actions. Rehearsal helps to ensure a superb performance. The best aspect about a rehearsal is that it is safe from all repercussions. Rehearsals that go well validate the script. Rehearsals that go poorly indicate that the script needs revision.

Imagination also allows us to explore new and unfamiliar possibilities. Not all pathways are obvious. Some are hidden and can only be revealed by using the imagination. Some people think that their choices in a given situation are limited. They believe that they can only choose A or B. They have not considered C, D, E, F, G... and the list goes on! Why have they confined themselves to a narrow range of options?

There is a shortcut to expanding the imagination beyond its natural limitations. Sometimes it is helpful to discuss difficult matters with a close friend. The simple process of discussing a situation allows the mind to put it into perspective and consider other alternatives. Another person is sure to view a matter from a slightly different perspective. Multiple perspectives are better than one, because no one is right all of the time. Learning to approach a problem from multiple perspectives represents a higher degree of mastery in problem-solving.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Dungeon Crawl's Wiz Mode

In Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Wiz Mode seems to satisfy all the cheating requirements of a player. I was anticipating the day when a Crawler would finally bring up the obvious question, why bother using a batch file such as regen.bat to cheat?

Wiz Mode is "Deluxe Cheating," while regen.bat is "Cheating Lite." Accessed at any time during the game by pressing the ampersand, Wiz Mode offers many temptations, such as increasing level, abilities, or hit points, transforming "Dungeons and Dragons" into "Dungeons and Rabbits." It even prevents death.

Here is Kuku the Kobold Summoner in Wiz Mode, about to be slain by a hobgoblin on level one. Wiz Mode gives him the option of dying or having all his hit points restored:

By responding "y", death is prevented. Kuku's hit points are fully restored, and he can continue fighting or attempt to flee. However, the difficult situation remains. The character could face the "Die?" question repeatedly, each time having to restore his hit points. To address this problem, Wiz Mode can grant additional powers to the character, allowing him to overcome his adversaries. He could even be transported to the Temple, a safe place to recuperate from wounds, or he could escape to a different level.

Wiz Mode does not permit the permanent storage of a save file. Crawl continues to delete saved files, whether in Wiz Mode or not. Once a character dies, that's that.

Regen.bat preserves save files from deletion. My favorite location in DCSS is the downstairs passage on level 7 of the Vaults leading to level 8, one of the most challenging and rewarding areas. By using regen.bat, it is possible to pillage level 8 many times with the same character.

The two methods of cheating, regen.bat and Wiz Mode, function in different ways and have different effects. They can be combined or used in isolation. For my part, regen.bat serves all of my needs. In other game systems, preserving a save file is not considered cheating at all, but is a standard feature supported within the game.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yahoo Borrows a Page from Stephen King

This afternoon, I logged in to Yahoo Mail to encounter an enormous picture occupying the middle of my screen, a small portion of which is shown here (warning: shocking content).

It is difficult to continue trusting Yahoo as an email provider when it places images such as that front and center. A boring email provider is preferred over the Stephen King variety. No more email address at yahoo dot com for me.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments

A Dungeon Crawl Abomination

In Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, there are many race/class combinations that should not be. The gods frown upon such abominations, which are grayed on the menu, not recommended. One abomination is a Spriggan Beserker, not deemed a viable class for Spriggans, and with cause, because highly intelligent spriggans are adept at magic. Magic is of great value--or is it? For a Spriggan to serve Trog, forswearing magic forever, is indeed an abomination--and quite an effective strategy, as it turns out.

Skryton began as a Spriggan Assassin, devoted all optional ability increases to Dexterity or Strength, and then chose Trog as his deity. Here are his stats at level 13:

Trog's munificence eventually bestowed the priceless elven quick blade, which is yet to be vorpalized but still extremely effective. Spriggans are the least hungriest of all races except Mummies and make fine Beserkers. But I would not begin as one, because Dexterity is everything for a Spriggan, and Assassin's curare needles are invaluable.

By forswearing spellcasting, all of the XP trickled down into the most vital skills for a Spriggan, Dodging, Stealth, and Stabbing, resulting in a high competence:

This successful experiment in concocting an abomination reinforces my opinion that Spriggans are an elite race, more powerful than any other.
by igor 04:20 4 replies by igor 09:32 0 comments
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