Category Archives: Opinion

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The Price of Atheism

(Originally posted on 2007-08-07 as /archives/73)

If this bigotry had occurred in [insert arbitrary name of state here], then I wouldn’t think twice about posting it without an explanation, but it occurred in Oklahoma, and I used to live there.  I met some good people in Oklahoma.  Have no doubt that I respect them.

When people say things like, “This is a Christian nation.  92% of Americans believe in God, so atheists should be quiet” they are saying a hateful thing.  If you don’t recognize that as hate speech, then try this version on for size: “This is a [insert arbitrary skin color here] nation…”

“Now the argument that America is a ‘Christian nation’, created by Christians for Christians and traditionally, therefore rightly, dominated by a Christian majority, could just as easily be extended to calling America a ‘white male nation’ and a demand to once again disenfranchise women and minorities. I’m sure we could find a biblical basis for that, as was done in the past, as well as plenty of precedent in law, so long as we went back before the 20th century for our rhetoric” … “No difference in the basic bigoted impulse, or the structure of the argument.” – Bruce Springsteen, Lawrence KS,

SOMA listserv, 2007-08-06

My interest in this video is not religious; if it inspires anyone to recognize and confront their own prejudices, then that is a very good thing.

So, with all that out of the way, “enjoy” the film.

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Loud Parties, Playing the Bass

(Originally posted on 2016-05-29)

Author: Ethan Prater Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eprater/4380249444/ CC License: Attribution 2.0 Generic
Author: Ethan Prater
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eprater/4380249444/
CC License: Attribution 2.0 Generic

The guy below me (at 30 Larnard St, Potsdam NY, in the early 90s), had a loud party, and played metal and classic rock records, real loud. Did he invite me? No.

Kids: if you are going to have a loud party, then you always invite the neighbors. In most cases they won’t come, but they will appreciate it, and they won’t call the police. Here endeth the lesson.

So I invited myself by plugging in my bass amp, and playing along with all of the songs. He eventually turned it down.

Did that end it? Not exactly: this started to become a regular thing, but at least he turned it down much quicker.

So one day his girlfriend stops me in the store, and says, “Hey, you’re the guy that lives above us. Every time that we have people visit, my boyfriend turns up the stereo, and then lowers the volume so that he can show everyone how you play the bass!”

All righty then…

 

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Campy-est Credit Card Ever!

(Originally posted on 2008-11-19 as /archives/1513)

xprize

Yes, this was my credit card. Most of the available designs were very conservative, but then there was this one. I chose this design because I wanted to see the look on cashiers’ faces when I produced it. It mostly elicited no response at all. I mean LOOK AT THAT THING! The designer’s Mom, and myself, had to be the only two people that chose it. Using that card is like legally changing your middle name to “Danger”. Nobody would do it. Oh. Yeah. Right.

The credit card was meant to help fund the first X Prize project (Ansari).

The card came with a super-low interest rate, a free coffee table pictures-from-space book, and an entry into a sweepstakes every time that you used it.

I won lesser prizes in the sweepstakes many times; you would think that I had that thing rigged. I won a Seiko chronograph watch (3rd prize). I also won multiple ball caps (5th prize), multiple desk sets (5th prize), these Swiss-army-like credit card things that had knives and such in them (ironic, being that it was a credit card sweepstakes)(5th prize): weird stuff. Unfortunately I didn’t win the Big Kahuna Burger prize of $100,000.

The X Prize (I am no longer talking about the sweepstakes prizes here) was eventually won by the SpaceShipOne team. The spacecraft was designed by the famous aircraft engineer Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites company, and funded by Paul Allen (the quieter Microsoft founder).

Here is the sweepstakes information for those that wanted to enter via the send-in-a-postcard route. I found this information here:

First USA X Prize Sweepstakes
prizes: Grand (1): A flight for one person to sub-orbital space, includes air for 2, lodging, meal allowance, ARV $100,000, if available at time of winner selection,or $100,000 cash alternative. Quarterly (1): A MIG 25 flight for one person, or a Zero G experience, or a trip for 2 to the Kennedy Space Center, or a Space Camp Adventure. 2nd (2): A 286X astronomical telescope, a “Starship Earth” 3D star atlas globe, a Konica digital still camera or a Casio hand-held personal computer, ARV $599. 3rd (5): Seiko chronograph watch, night scope binoculars, a Franklin Mint Columbia Shuttle replica in porcelain or a Grundig aluminum finish short wave radio, ARV $223. 4th (25): Apollo official patches, Nikon aviator frame sunglasses, a 200 x 50mm refractor telescope or an international Star Registry, ARV $70. 5th (200): Merchandise or a mug, ARV $19.
TO ENTER: On plain 3×5 paper, hand print NAZ, Phone, and the words: X PRIZE.
* Mail in envelope to:
      X PRIZE
P.O. Box 7290
Melville, NY 11775-7290
NOTE: Must be at least 18. Unlimited entries. Open in US. Entry also online at www.firstusa.com/xprize. F/E ineligible: Visa, First USA, Don Jagoda. J/A: National Judging Institute. W/L: Send SASE beginning after 9/30/98 to X PRIZE SWEEPSTAKES WINNERS, P.O. Box 7999, Melville, NY 11775-7999. The name of the Grand Prize winner will be made available as soon as possible after the drawing but in no event later than 8/30/07.

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How Journey Gets That “Jaco Pastorius” Fretless Bass Sound

(Originally published on 2016-11-11.)

According to Bass Player Magazine‘s Facebook post:

“I found a way to emulate Jaco’s fretless sound on fretted instruments… I’d play with or without a pick, but definitely going for an enhanced attack with a thin sound playing through an Eventide Harmonizer with the pitch ratio set to 99 or 101—right below or above pitch by a cent…” – Ross Valory of Journey

Here’s exactly what he’s talking about:

Here’s a newer model of Eventide Harmonizer:

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Amanda & Jack Palmer: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

(Originally posted on 2016-05-05)

Amanda & Jack Palmer cover Richard Thompson‘s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning if this video. The video is quite good. The art is by David Mack of Kabuki fame. Watch it.

I was aware of the Dresden Dolls, but I didn’t start listening to Amanda Palmer until after she married Neil Gaiman, because: Neil Gaiman. I suspect that this true for many people. Most of her music is pay what you want so there’s every reason to buy it if you like it, and pay exactly what it is worth to you.

Here’s what a stock Vincent Black Shadow looks like. The image is by brett Jordan:

brett Jordan’s Vincent Black Shadow, licensed via Creative Commons

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Motorcycle oil filters exposed!

(Originally posted on 2008-01-23 as /archives/158)

Toby Creek is a geek: in the best possible way.  Read along as he “exposes” motorcycle oil filters, and by “expose” I mean that he literally cuts them open and shows us what’s inside.

Read Toby’s Fram review.  It begins with the words: “If anything, the Fram will show you how NOT to build a high performance oil filter.”

Here is my next filter (I copied the picture from www.tobycreek.org):

kandnopen-small

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Build a Wall? Part Uno

(Originally posted on 2017-01-18.)

Politics is a football game, where winning is everything, and there are no stable values. What about the religious right? In the south, they used to vote for Democrats. What about free market capitalism?

By Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The GOP was free-market right up until this election. Now there are Republicans that say, “We want protectionist economic policies. Build a wall!”

Protectionist economic policies will increase the cost of every item that comes from Mexico and China. (Whether that increase takes money away from the manufacturer, the import company, or the end-consumer, depends on the elasticity-of-demand.) Every person’s dollar will buy less, and Americans will be that much poorer, but the next president will still be able to afford a $650 iPhone.

People said that your future president was lying about getting Mexico to pay for the wall, but he actually did mention tariffs during the campaign.

Here’s the thing about tariffs: if you raise the price of imports, then people will buy them from some other place, and then the tariffs won’t generate money to build the wall. In that case, you won’t have a wall, and you won’t have inexpensive goods either.

Mexico and China are in an industrial revolution. At the end of an industrial revolution, you end up with a large middle class. Large middle-class people generally want the option of desk jobs. The USA is in between industrial revolutions.

But there’s a completely different way of looking at trade deficits, and it’s simply this: the trade imbalance just means that the US dollar buys more, and that means that people in the US, on average, are better off, than people in other countries, and USA-first people like trump shouldn’t want to mess with that.

Me? I think that people are people, and I don’t care whether they live in China, the USA, or most other places, but that’s a “Paul opinion”. It’s not liberal, and it’s not conservative.


By Crossswords (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Cumulative current account balance per capita 1980–2008 based on International Monetary Fund data. Emilfaro [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The two charts above show that the USA currently has the greatest trade imbalance, while simultaneously making more protectionist policies. Here are a few possible explanations:


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Total FAWDOT

(Originally written on 2015-05-08 as /archives/7136)

Here is an image of Eno L. Camino getting FAWDOT. I am in “good company”, apparently.

IMG_20150419_223856-Edit-512x384
Kay took a photo of me playing an exciting game of Destiny (online multiplayer). I fell asleep, and woke up, six times. I have no idea what the other players thought I was doing.

Last week I was totally FAWDOT (falling asleep while doing other things). I cannot drive when I get this way:

  • I fell asleep while sitting: repeatedly.
  • I fell asleep while standing.
  • I fell asleep while playing video games.

Gary gets totally FAWDOT here. Yes, I actually fell asleep there. (And yes, I realize that the comic is actually a restroom pun, but I find my humor where I find it.)

I have systemic exertion intolerance disorder/ myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (pick a name, pick an abbreviation: SEID/ME/CFS).

Kay again: what a joker.
Kay again: what a joker.

This is a rebuttal to some myths:

  • Please don’t say, “At least you get to sleep.” I am just as tired when I wake up. Do you want to know what I really want to do? I want to be a computer programmer. I did that for 20 years, but I can no longer do that.
  • Some people don’t believe that it exists, because they can’t see it. People can’t see headaches either, but they believe in them, because headaches are so common that most of us have had one. “I can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist” is a misuse of Occam’s Razor.
  • It is not only fatigue. Imagine having the flu, while being drunk, and staying awake for two days, and you will have an idea of what this is like. Yes, there are good days, and there are bad days, but my good days still require 16 hours of sleep. The bad days require twenty hours.
  • It is serious: “CDC studies show that CFS can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and similar chronic conditions.”
  • It is not, or not only, caused by mononucleosis. A person with ME/CFS can usually tell you exactly what viral infection preceded their condition. The answer is different for different people.
  • It is not depression. A person with ME will tell you what they would be doing (kayaking, photography, riding motorcycles) if they could. People that are depressed don’t have that “positive” (for lack of a better word) outlook. That said: a person can have both.
  • It is not only seen in women. 20% of people with ME/CFS are men.
  • There is no known cure.
  • It is not the “yuppie disease”. “This term was popularized in a November 1990 Newsweek cover story… It reflects a stereotype that CFS mainly affects yuppies, and implies that it is a form of burnout. The phrase is considered offensive by patients and clinicians.
  • It is not a new, made-up, diagnosis. It has also been known as (from here, here, and here.):
    • Neurasthenia (as early as 1829)
    • Chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome
    • Chronic mononucleosis
    • Low natural killer syndrome
    • Atypical poliomyelitis
    • Tapanui flu
    • Royal Free disease
    • Epidemic neuromyasthenia
    • Post-viral illness
    • Florence Nightingale disease
    • Chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS)
    • Neuroendocrineimmune disorder
    • Myalgic encephalopathy.

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My spouse bought me a t-shirt that says, “Regrettably, all the good paying jobs start before I wake up.”

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