Monday, May 11, 2015

Fast Times at Living Room High

I am biased in favor of parents who home school their kids. Government schools have always been suspect, and with their having become part prison, part social engineering petri dish, now there is truly nothing to recommend them.

However...

The way home school advocates tout the superior results of home schooled kids is a little simplistic. The very act of home schooling is a vote of no confidence in public schools. And while public schools may be incompetent, even if they weren't - of course a home schooled kid is likely to perform better. He is being tutored one-on-one

Even the most strident pro-government school zealots tout smaller classroom size as an advantage. What could be more advantageous than having a classroom consisting of your kitchen table and (maybe) your siblings?

One-on-one instruction is better for most everyone. Just ask anyone who has taken a foreign language class vs. someone who hired a personal instructor. I bet some of those underperforming public school students would see their results improve too if their teachers focused on them alone.

Monday, April 20, 2015

If you aren't afraid of mimes, you should be

A very short weird tale I wrote - The Discussion of Mimes - has been produced as a podcast over at Pseudopod.org. Hope you enjoy. And tell your friends. And tell your friends to send me money. And tell your friends to put me in their wills.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Alcohol - Mankind's Best Friend

Ever notice that when people quit drinking, they always replace it with something grandiose; martial arts, crazy adrenaline sports, zealous religion (including zealous AA religion).

People don't do this with other addictions. No one takes up MMA just to keep from getting beaten up by Joe Camel.

Drinking is so great it is nearly impossible to replace it with anything else. Certainly there is no replacement as cheap, convenient, or quick. It is cheap: whether it is Dom Perignon or PBR, you still get a buzz. Even expensive whiskey or wine is still cheaper than therapy (and much more likely to improve your mood). It is convenient: you can buy it almost everywhere. It is quick: only takes a few small sips to feel better about problems at work, your flight being delayed, the person who dumped you. Talk about instant gratification. A counseling sessions lasts 45 minutes. You can down two life affirming Smirnoff sips in 45 seconds.

And booze is the gift that keeps on giving. You can't go skydiving every day. You can drink a glass of wine every night.

I saw Bobby Dall, bass player for Poison and former drunk, talking on Behind the Music about replacing drinking with playing for 10,000 people. That's great when that's your alternative, but for the rest of us, to get a rush the choice is either drinking and feeling invincible or riding an exercise bike for an hour. No surprise that Guinness wins that battle.

This irreplaceability is the greatest possible advertising for alcohol. You don't need all those beer commercials with hot chicks and Jeeps. All you have to say is "Budweiser - You'll miss it so much you'll climb Everest."

They call drinking a disease, but really, the disease is life. Drinking is the cure.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

It Takes Pseudo-Science to Sell the Sweet Science

Boxing is the most dangerous and dramatic sport of all, yet for some reason boxing is the only sport where the athletes have to give themselves nicknames to make the sport sound more dangerous and dramatic. Names like The Bronx Bull, The Hispanic Causin' Panic, Lights Out, Hitman, Boom Boom, Touch of Sleep, The Snuff Film Director (OK, I made that one up). There have been no less than 65,000 fighters who've used some variation of the nickname "Sugar."

But really, shouldn't it be the wimpier sports that need nicknames to heighten the drama?

Golf:

Rory "Don't Ask about His Backstory" McIlroy

Tiger "Left Little Red Riding Hood dying in the" Woods

Figure skating:

"Battling" Brian Boitano

Kristi "Yo Mama" Yamaguchi

Tonya Harding...actually, she's the one figure skater who already IS scary.

Chess:

Grapplin' Gary Kasparov

Bobby "The Fatal Flank" Fischer

Not only does boxing evidently need nicknames, but the fighters have to stage fake fights at press conferences to build up hype for their real rights. Without fake punches as part of the buildup no one will pay attention when the genuine punches start getting thrown. And the antics leading up to those fake press conference fights are only half a notch above pro-wrestling story-lines.

Michael Jordan didn't have to pretend to hate John Stockton's wife to generate hype for the Bulls-Jazz Finals. Montana didn't have to pelt Elway with a football to get people to watch the Super Bowl. It is a testament to how peculiar MAN is that fighting, the oldest and most primal sport of all, can't just be allowed to speak for itself.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why the various "Republican saviors" won't save anything

The Republican contenders for 2016 have already been picked by the media. Who is going to take on Hillary, the pundits wonder? With the current international political turmoil - Mideast, Russia, etc. - the media tells us a Republican hawk will have plenty to run on. I can't tell if the media is actually that detached from the facts or they just need to create some phony suspense about 2016 so that people will keep paying attention to them.

Foreign policy matters very, very, very little to Americans. To understand foreign policy requires understanding that there are such things as foreign countries, and that is a tall order for most Americans (including so-called "political junkies"). Obama has merrily continued many Bushian military blunders and launched a few of his own. Most Americans aren't even aware of these debacles, and those who are only care if they identify as Republican. As for the "it's the economy, stupid" chestnut: NO IT ISN'T, STUPID. Social media has helped make the "social issues" the only issues that motivate people. Everyone, Republican or Democrat, is now a values voter. Even economic issues are now framed in terms of demographics.

With all that said, below is a list of why the various Republican contenders cannot win. The moment any of them ascend towards lasting relevance the policies/comments detailed below will go from media headlines to social media blitzkriegs.

Why Scott Walker won't be President:

Wisconsin governor Scott Walkers signs abortion bill requiring ultrasound

Why Rand Paul won't be President:

Discussion of Civil Rights Bills with Rachel Maddow

Why Rick Perry won't be President:

Court upholds Texas abortion law, closing 13 clinics

Why Chris Christie won't be President:

New Jersey Defunds Planned Parenthood

Why Mike Pence won't be President:


Why Marco Rubio won't be President:


These liabilities alone guarantee none of these "contenders" can win California, Massachusetts (all of New England except maybe New Hampshire and even that "Live free or die" state looks unpromising for Republicans), New York, Connecticut, New Jersey (yes, New Jersey - Chris Christie is going nowhere), Illinois. and Pennsylvania. Already that makes a Democratic victory almost inevitable. Presidents aren't decided by popular vote, and the only big red electoral state is Texas. All the other biggies are pretty well sewn up for Democrats regardless of the candidate. There will never be another pro-life (or even socially conservative) president, no matter how many bleach-toothed "electable" Republican messiahs the media tries to gussy up.

You might wonder why I didn't mention candidate Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz won't get elected because, well, he's Ted Cruz.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do Hawkish Presidents Make Other Countries Dovish?

The last 18 months have been tough on Mr. Obama. His foreign policy seems to be taking nothing but left hooks to the liver.

Many of the 2016 GOP candidates have launched their campaigns by telling everyone how unlike Obama they will be on foreign policy. "The President is weak!" so the narrative goes.

I hate to defend a politician, but back when megahawk Bush was in office, Russia still aggressed outside its borders - anyone remember the 2008 Georgia crisis? Bush tsked-tsked Putin, and then presidential candidate McCain threw out plenty of harsh rhetoric. And it wasn't all talk; W. Bush had spent eight years throwing soldiers and bombs at various "evildoers." None of those displays of aggression kept Putin in check.

If anything, the War in Iraq showcased the flaws of interventionism; it showed a weak U.S. If Reagan had gotten mired in prolonged conflicts as stupid at the Second Iraq Invasion, would he be remembered as having "won the Cold War?" Bush's adventurism showed a U.S. that once again couldn't win a war of containment (containing communism in Vietnam and containing terrorism in Iraq)...so what exactly was Putin supposed to fear?

Allegedly wimpy Obama attacked Libya (now a failed state) without authorization, another Rubicon moment in a long list of them. He also didn't hesitate to intervene in Pakistan and Yemen (now a failed state), This didn't keep Putin or anyone else from doing what most politicians do; intervene abroad to create a "strong leader" narrative at home. The fact that Putin flouted the world under both "War on Terror" Bush and "My Red Line Keeps Moving" Obama probably tells us something about assuming a tough-guy president will necessarily convince other world leaders to play nice.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Medicine, Media, and Monogamy don't Mix

Thanks to the safer world in which we live, life expectancy keeps climbing. Once the world goes Kurzweil, who knows how long we'll hang around.

This spike in life expectancy doesn't bode well for the already stooped, arthritic, and tremoring institution of marriage. In the old days, loving someone forever meant loving him/her until about 65. Now you have to limp through it until at least 85. It's true that people aren't getting married as young, but getting married at 32 instead of 24 still means today's married folk have to tolerate their "soulmate" for 12, 13, 14, 15 extra years to make it to "forever." Not strangling someone for 40 years is a lot easier than keeping your hands off their throat for 55.

Modern medicine has also greatly improved quality of life. Today a man of 55 can physically er, perform in ways he couldn't a generation ago, and thanks to the ubiquity of divorce, he now has a deep talent pool of divorcees to target. When you're a vigorous 55 and can pull a 40-year-old eager to have someone lie to her about how beautiful she still is, that "forever" vow you made to your now musty 55-year-old bride feels like a belly flop into the River Styx.

A lot of women talk about liking older men. That's acceptable when you're 28 and he's 40. But what happens when you're 53 and he's 65. Suddenly the allure of an older man isn't so alluring, particularly when you know you're going to be watching him decay for a couple more decades. Forever suddenly feels like the kind of forever you complain about at the DMV.

Thanks to dating sites and Facebook, it's never been easier to meet someone new. A 55-year-old divorced person can hop back in the game with a few mouse clicks; no embarrassing 50+ dance nights at your local community center. You can point and click at a wide range of partners your age and start the second (or third or fourth or fifth) stage of your romantic life.

The power of that very media is another marriage killer. There are now so many forms of communication; texts, email, constant cell phone access, which means non-stop opportunity for marital misunderstandings, words said in heat, and just plain overexposure to your now never disconnected lover. Everyone is just one unfortunate auto-complete away from relationship oblivion.

Medicine is only getting better, and technology is putting us in touch with ever more people (potential sex partners). None but a very select few can tolerate a sixty-year marriage. Given that the only people who left who take their religion seriously are Mormons and Muslims, the "forever" marriage vow will soon make even priests laugh out loud. In the future, the only way a couple will be able to last until death do us part is to hire a hitman (probably through social media).