Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Upset veteran writes confusing letter!

As I've said before, I really try not to write about the ridiculous letters to the editor that I find in the Sentinel. It's like picking on the kids in the short bus. Still, some of these letters are just so crazy that it's impossible to resist.

Today's example of that has the fantastic title of Veteran upset by gay and lesbian groups altering flag. And by "fantastic," I mean "misleading." You know how it goes.

Let's quote!
Now I have seen it all.

Not only do they burn the American flag, but on the Channel 5 News this weekend they did a special on that protest in Boston and myself and some of my fellow veterans saw the same thing: a big American glag [Sic] with the stars on it.
What? Channel 5 News burns the American flag? Why do they do that?

And what protest? And why are you offended by American glags flags with stars on them? Why do you hate the American flag, Mr. Veteran guy?
But the red and white stripes replaced with the colors of the gay and lesbian yellow green and red blue.
That's not a sentence, let alone a paragraph.

At least now we can sort of understand what he's talking about. It must have been a gay protest! And as everyone knows, gays and lesbians love "yellow green and red blue."

Huh?

Is he talking about a rainbow flag? Because if so, he's missing a few colors. Could it be that he's failing miserably in trying to describe one of these flags? Perhaps this one?


According to this, that flag apparently even predates the Gay Pride rainbow flag, and started off as more a hippie thing than a gay thing. Here's what it says (in green to differentiate it from the letter to the editor):
The canton of stars represents all of the constellations — united, or the U.S. depending on who you talk to. The stripes of many colors represent all of the tribes of the earth. The symbolism being that all of the different peoples or tribes can come together in peace and harmony. At least in a flag! And hopefully in person. The “Rainbow Family of Living Light”, also known as the “Rainbow Family” is an international, non-hierarchical, non-organized, loose-knit group of hippies.
Damn dirty hippies!

Anyway, back to our upset-but-incoherent veteran. Now we have a pretty good idea of what he's offended by, at least!
If that is not disrespectful to those soldiers who are dying for our country I don't know what the hell is.
Such language! He is clearly upset about his own ignorance of disrespectful things!

To help him, here are just a few things more disrespectful to those soldiers than some hippie/gay flag:
  • Sending them to get killed in unjust wars.
  • Making them jump through hoops for VA care (I guess this applies more to those who don't actually die).
  • Lack of proper supplies/armor/planning that endangers them in the first place.
  • Ignoring the fact that many of them actually are gay, and many more aren't homophobic assholes.
  • Valuing a fucking piece of cloth over human life.

Moving on with the letter:
I am a veteran and have fought in the Vietnam War in the Marines and when I saw that flag, I was very upset.

What is going on with our country today? Then [Sic] they show things like that on television and not hardly [Sic] enough of all the good that our veterans are doing over their. [Sic]
I thought Marines were supposed to be some sort of big tough guys, not whiny little crybabies who get upset over a rainbow flag. Apparently I was wrong. Next time I meet a Marine I will be careful what I say, lest he burst into tears like a 6-year-old girl who just had her favorite doll taken away.

Channel 5 News should be ashamed of themselves for showing this flag! They upset some fragile old sissy Marine, and possibly some of his friends. Don't they know that they're supposed to pretend gay people don't exist so as not to offend idiots?

In conclusion, the person who wrote this letter was too dumb not to make fun of.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Local pastor thinks Obama is the Antichrist?

One of my many bad habits is reading the Shepherd's Corner column in the Fitchburg Pride. Often it's the only thing I'll actually bother to read in the Pride, because it's such a good source of hilarity.

In this almost-weekly feature, we get words of "wisdom" from various community ministers/pastors/priests/whatever. Oddly, I haven't been asked to contribute yet despite the fact that I am an ordained Reverend, and a devoted Pastafarian.

I blame prejudice.

Some of my fellow religious leaders are pretty good, though. Well, one is. I have no complaints with the Unitarian lady. Most of the others are various levels of crazy. Some are just a little crazy, with their bible-quotin' and all. Others are quite crazy.

Into this latter category is where I'm putting Pastor Steve Mayo, the guy behind this odd column. Allow me to quote a bit:
Over the last few weeks, and especially since the election, President elect Barack Obama has been labeled everything from the Messiah to the Antichrist as people try to make sense of what happened on Nov. 4. Is he the great American hope who will make every wrong right in the world, judgment on America for its apostasy, or somewhere in between?
Umm... wow. Where to even start?

Pastor Crazypants is right that some lunatics call Obama the Antichrist, and actually are serious about it. But "the Messiah"? Huh?

The only people who I've ever heard use the term "Messiah" when talking about Obama are right-wing assholes. They're not using that word because they believe he's a messiah, they're using it to make fun of people who are just too deeply into Obama. In fairness, there are a fair number of people who are too into Obama, and they deserve to be made fun of.

Regardless, I don't think there's an Obama supporter out there who thinks of him as the "Messiah" in a religious sense. It's a figure of speech, Pastor!

Also, "judgment on America for its apostasy"???

Apostasy is basically leaving one's religion. America has never had a religion to leave. It's a secular state, and has never been a "Christian nation", no matter what lies you've been told.

It's creepy to talk about apostasy in this manner. It brings to mind Islamic theocracies, where apostasy is often punishable by death. I wonder what "judgment" this pastor thinks America has earned.

Okay, that first paragraph was pretty dumb. But maybe Pastor Steve will now redeem himself by saying how the people saying these things are stupid!
Those who think of him as the Messiah need to think again. Those who think that just moving our country to one political party or the other will solve our problems need to look back at history to see just how false that statement is. Having one party in control of every branch of government has never brought about a utopian United States.
Argh!

Okay, ignore for a moment the fact that nobody actually thinks of Obama as "the Messiah." Why are only those people (who don't exist in the first place) taken to task? What about the nutballs who call him the Antichrist? You don't have any problem with them?

Apparently not, because at no point are they mentioned again. I can only assume that Pastor Steve endorses the view that Obama is the Antichrist.

I do enjoy Pastor Steve's views on one-party government being a bad thing, though. He's quite right that it's "never brought about a utopian United States." Of course, neither has two-party rule. Or anything else. But hell, I can't argue with the facts!

The rest of his column is also wonderfully crazy and idiotic. This is a man who's not at all in touch with reality. For instance:
W blame an outgoing president for our inabilitto see that we are gettininto mortg we
cannot afford and buying things we cannot pay for.
Put a bigass [Sic] after that whole thing.

What it's attempting to convey appears to be that people blame Bush for their own overspending. The jerks!

Except they don't. They might blame Bush for the culture of excessive deregulation that led to banks going all willy-nilly offering mortgages to people they knew couldn't pay for them. That's a very different thing.

What other crap can this guy spew?
We murder and call it choice. Lust is confused with love. We as a society are turning around. Instead of addressing the issues at hand, we are trying to free our conscience and make everything acceptable. I have heard it said regarding different sins that, "I was born this way."
I would very much like to know what "different sins" he's heard people say "I was born this way" about. I mean besides homosexuality, which is obviously what he's referring to. Perhaps he'll tell us?
We were all born this way. We are all born sinful. Left unchecked, we will run towards sin and away from God. We often prefer to create a god in our own image, rather than obeying the Lord "who was, and is, and is to come" (Rev. 4:8).
So we're all gay? How am I going to break this to my wife?

Pastor Everyone-is-gay then goes on to ask a very important question.
Where do you stand? Are you going to look to a man to solve our problems, or are you going to look to God? If we don't turn back to God, then even help with the best of intentions isn't going to make a difference.
Well, I can't speak for anyone else here, but I'll give an answer.

I'm going to look not to "a man" to solve our problems, but to multiple men and women. Because the only way problems ever get solved is when people get off their asses (or knees) and do something about them.

God isn't going to fix the economy, God isn't going to stop the war, God isn't going to make sure you have a merry Christmas. God's going to do what God has always done: absolutely nothing.

What is this pathetic form of defeatism practiced by some Christians? If you want a better world, get out there and do something about it. Every minute you spend praying to your god is a minute you're not doing something to improve the world. Yes, you can do both if you really want. But why waste time?

Apparently Pastor Steve just wants you to sit around praying and filling up his collection tin instead of working to improve the world. No thanks!

I was wondering if all Pastor Give-up's sermons are this bad, so I went to his church's website. As it turns out, it's the filthiest thing I've ever seen in my life!

Let's say you want to listen to some of Pastor Steve's inspiring thoughts about giving up on the world. So you go to the Sermons page. Being concerned about computer security, you have Javascript disabled in your browser (perhaps via the NoScript Firefox extension). You're treated to this!

(click to embiggen)

Now, that "Importance of Godly Women" sermon sounds okay, at first.

But how could it possibly compare to "duck hot gay love sex", whatever that is? What do they really sell in "celebrity sex stores"? Why are they saying that "scotland sucks"? These could be interesting sermons too!

Perhaps I should try another page. Hey, that "Megawatt Youth Ministries" thing sounds exciting too!

Wow, it sure is! Corn wives rule!

Virtually every page on the site is like this. A little bit of churchy stuff up top, then tons of links to places you really shouldn't visit taking up the rest of the page.

I was going to send a nice email to Pastor Steve alerting him that the site has been compromised by spammers and that they'll need to have somebody clean it up.

But then I thought back to Pastor Steve's advice. If we rely on humans for website security, we won't get anywhere!

So instead of alerting him to the problem, which would probably result in a sinful human having to clean things up, I'm just going to pray to God that He will use his magic to fix the site and get rid of all the suspicious links to "squirting chicks" and "hentai cat girl galleries".

I figure it should be pretty easy for him, being God and all. And it's the way Pastor Steve would want it.



[Update] - I removed the links to the site. There's obfuscated Javascript involved, and just in case it's up to something nastier than link farming I don't want to send people there and get them infected.

If you really want to see the site, it's at http://www.elmstcc.org. I don't recommend visiting unless you disable Javascript first, though. You wouldn't see the fun stuff with it on anyway.

Also, God has apparently not gotten around to fixing it, so I did alert the contact address on the site. I guess we humans will just have to fix our own problems, again.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What type of blogger am I?

So, there's this thing called the Typealyzer, which you're supposed to plug your blog URL into and it'll tell you stuff about yourself.

That actually seems pretty pointless, since I already know lots of stuff about myself. But it's not like I have anything better to do right now.

So let's do it!

The analysis indicates that the author of http://progressivefitchburg.blogspot.com is of the type:
ISTP - The Mechanics

[ISTP]
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

I don't know what that ISTP nonsense means, but am excited that I'm a race-car-driving policeman (or firefighter)! And I do like things that are fun! This is totally accurate!

I'm not so sure about the avoiding interpersonal conflict part, though.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sarah Palin has no peripheral vision



This is the most wonderful/disturbing video I've seen all day.

It's an interview with Sarah Palin after she pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving. She does interviews a lot more now that she's not running for Vice President, for some reason.

Behind her a very happy man is murdering turkeys in some sort of terrible turkey-killing device, and draining their blood while they thrash around horribly.

His name is "Joe the Turkey-grinder" and he will feature prominently in Palin's 2012 campaign.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Know your town!

Thanks to Jeffrey Rowland, I have just discovered the wonder that is Wikimapia!

Normally I'm not a big proponent of "Web 2.0" nonsense, but this is an amazing thing! It combines maps with totally unverified bullshit labels added by bored internet goons.

Sadly, most of the labeling of Fitchburg is really dull.

The former location of the Thunderbird Motel has a nice description, at least. But for the most part the local geeks have only bothered to label stuff like Dunkin' Donuts (and spelled it wrong, at that). Like anyone cares about stupid Dunkin' Donuts!

This cannot stand!

I know that my readers are a creative and insightful bunch, and trust that you will take the time to properly label the interesting places in Fitchburg.

Actually, it doesn't even matter if they're interesting. Make up something interesting! It's not like anybody's going to be checking your work!

Viva la Web 2.0!


UPDATE - 2:30 PM: Apparently I was wrong about people not checking your work! Some jerk keeps deleting the hobos, and I keep putting them back.

You can't make poverty go away by ignoring it, hobo-haters! The hobo battle has just begun!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why you can't trust research

Science reporting in the popular press is a terrible thing. You have reporters with no understanding of science regurgitating press releases about studies that may or may not have any validity. Only dramatic or unusual studies get reported on, and if further investigation proves those studies to be false it's unlikely to be reported.

So it's really no wonder that many people don't trust scientific studies. Why should they? Most of the studies that get mentioned in the popular press are wrong anyway. That's why they get printed! Ninety-nine studies confirming that there's no link between vaccines and autism aren't as newsworthy as one study showing there is, for instance.

Unfortunately, the problem here isn't just with the popular press. I've just stumbled across a very interesting paper that purports to prove that "most claimed research findings are false" even in the scientific literature!

Incidentally, you can read the entire paper at that link above. No lame abstracts for us! If you're not in the mood for wading through it (it can be a bit technical at times), I'll basically go over it here anyway.

The paper is actually titled Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, which is a pretty dramatic claim. Many, sure. But "most"? We'll see about that!

Let's begin with some basics, though. To be considered good scientific research there are a few things you need to do. Your tests should ideally be double-blinded, have a good control, have a large sample size, have a solid theoretical grounding, avoid bias, and so forth. Most studies don't live up to all of these, but the good ones at least try to.

Let's say you do a great study in which you attempt to see whether or not masturbation causes blindness. All appropriate controls are in place, and you have a nice big sample size. Now you have to figure out if the results mean anything.

So you compare your non-masturbating control group to your masturbating group and see a statistically significant difference in blindness. Since I'm making this all up anyway, let's say that you discover that masturbation does cause blindness. Interesting result!

You use various statistical techniques to determine that your p-value is below the standard 0.05 mark. What that 0.05 means is that there's only a 5% likelihood that your results are due to chance. You're 95% likely to be right!

That 95% confidence is the standard. Sure, a higher confidence (lower p-value) is even better, but it's at 95% that people will start to take your results seriously.

So now you have a well-done study that shows statistical significance to 95% confidence! Great! The media picks up on your story, religious groups start citing your research to try to get people to stop masturbating, and old wives feel happy with their tales.

The only problem is that even if you did absolutely everything right in carrying out your research (which in a study like this would be nearly impossible), there's a 5% chance that you're still totally wrong.

Even if every study out there was done flawlessly, one out of every twenty would reach a conclusion that's total crap. And unfortunately for you, you just did that study.

So does that mean 1/20th of the studies out there are wrong? That's disheartening, but still not too terrible!

Sadly, no. It's a lot worse than that.

Most research is not well-done. Biases are introduced that screw everything up. Numbers are cherry-picked to support preconceived ideas. Things go wrong. These bad studies may or may not be easy to spot, especially if you only have access to an abstract and not the full paper.

Wait, it gets worse. I've barely delved into the paper mentioned above.

You see, there are other elements at play here. For instance, the likelihood of something being true in the first place. For every hypothesis that's correct, there are a potentially infinite number of hypotheses that are wrong.

Let's say I have five hypotheses:
  • Cigarettes cause cancer
  • Potatoes cause cancer
  • Watching television causes cancer
  • Rain causes cancer
  • Leprechauns cause cancer
Of these theories, only the first is likely to be true (based on a large body of previous research). But I do studies on each of them.

Chances are that I'll discover that cigarettes cause cancer and that the rest don't. Yay!

But instead of just five studies, let's make it a thousand. We'll assume the same ratio of good to bad ideas. So I'd have 200 studies of things that actually do cause cancer and 800 studies of things that don't.

This is where things get really ugly.

Because I am a wonderfully skilled researcher, I do all 1,000 studies perfectly and get my beloved 0.05 p-value. Nobody can find a single flaw with my methodology. Even with the leprechaun one!

What do I end up with? Well, thanks to that 5% of uncertainty, I've just produced 40 well-done studies in which I prove that unicorns, bowties, and the letter Q all cause cancer.

I also have my 200 studies of things that actually do cause cancer, and since I am flawless I've confirmed that they all do so.

This leaves me with about 17% of my research being totally wrong. And that's assuming I did everything right. In the real world I'd likely have a much higher rate of both false positives and false negatives. It's hard to guess exactly how high they'd be.

Chances are the false negative rate would be fairly high, though. It can be tough to prove that something causes cancer even when it does. So let's say I only manage to prove that half of the things that cause cancer actually do. (The other half still cause cancer, I just can't prove it.) Now out of my 140 things that I think cause cancer, I'm wrong about nearly 30% of them.

If I wasn't such a good researcher and screwed up when studying things that don't cause cancer, I'd probably get a higher false positive rate than the idealistic 5% too. Even a piddling little 10% error rate would take me up to being wrong 44% of the time.

Add to that the possibility that I might suck even worse at choosing things to study than in this example. Maybe only one out of ten things I chose actually do cause cancer. Maybe one out of a hundred. Now we're in a situation where the vast majority of my results are total crap.

This is pretty bleak. Science is the best way we have of figuring out the world, and there are all these flaws! I haven't even gone into all the problems mentioned in the paper (and won't, since this is getting long). How the hell are we to know what's true and what's not?

Rest assured, there are ways to deal with the problems here.

First off, only pay attention to studies that are done well in the first place. It's hard enough trying to figure out the facts from good studies, bad ones are just a waste of time.

If a study has a small sample size, poor controls, or an obvious bias, there's a higher probability that it's wrong. Similarly, if it finds only a weak effect (like if something raises your risk of cancer by 2% or something) there's a decent chance it doesn't actually mean anything.

Keep in mind that, given enough time and a large enough number of studies, every crackpot theory in the world will have a research paper to back it up.

Don't jump to conclusions based on a single study, especially if its result strikes you as incompatible with what you've seen before. If something is interesting enough, other people will try to replicate the research. Once you get a fair number of studies into the same thing a clear consensus should emerge. One bad study is easy to come by, a hundred bad studies into the same thing is unlikely (but by no means impossible).

Some fields lend themselves to more false conclusions than others. In physics you're probably not going to find a huge number of totally wrong conclusions. In medicine you're going to find a lot. In the social sciences you're going to find a ridiculous amount. Basically, the more complicated things get the less likely you're going to get any useful conclusions. Few things are more complicated than human psychology.

Don't ever take the press release version of a study as the final word, and definitely don't trust the further bastardization of that press release as presented by the popular news media. Get the original research paper if you can. Try to find a review of it by a knowledgeable source. Even if you can get the original research paper, you may not be knowledgeable enough about its topic to really understand it. Even if you understand it, the paper itself could be wrong.

Everything is worth questioning, and if something really seems wrong then there's a good chance it is.

And please, please, support science education. There's way too much crap out there, and way too few people who know how to interpret it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A movie review!

Now that my month of posting every day has ended, I have become lazy. Politics can get tiring, after all. Sure, I've got a half-written post about how Karl Rove is a whiny little baby and how anyone who thinks he's some kind of political genius is deeply wrong, but I couldn't even bring myself to finish it.

But I did see a movie over the weekend, and I'm going to review it. Note that there may be spoilers. You're forewarned.

Specifically, I saw the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace.

This nonsensically-titled movie is the second with the new, "gritty" James Bond, played by gorilla-human hybrid Daniel Craig.


I am told that many heterosexual women (and presumably some gay men) find this mass of steroid-addled flesh attractive. They will be pleased to know that he spends some time shirtless in the new movie. So they should be happy, as long as they don't think about his shriveled testicles.

As you can probably guess, I am not a fan of this bulky, surly, totally humorless, and pretty-much braindead Bond.

It's not that Craig is even a bad actor, it's just that the new James Bond is just another braindead action hero. The exact same movie could have been made calling him "Bruce Meatpuncher" and nobody would ever suspect it was intended to be a James Bond movie.

Sadly, the thing that made the James Bond movies enjoyable (to me, anyway) was all the stuff that they've done away with in this gritty, post-9/11, tedious new world of Bond.

Bond isn't charming, he's boorish. He's not clever, he's heavily-muscled. He doesn't have sneaky ways of doing things, he just beats guys up. He doesn't have interesting technology, he just has a gun. And he sure as hell doesn't have anything resembling a sense of humor.

Yeah, a lot of those qualities of the old Bond got overdone, and a lot of the old movies were ridiculous. But so what? They weren't meant to be realistic, they were basically a comic book superhero version of Bond. Which was okay, because comic book superheroes are fun to watch! Just because they got out of hand and went too far with the gimmickry before is no reason to abandon absolutely everything that made Bond endearing in the first place.

About the only thing left of the old Bond is that the new Bond also has a way with attractive women.


Even then, I don't recall the woman above ever having sex with Bond, which is something I would have possibly enjoyed watching. They might have made out at some point though.

He instead had sex with some forgettable redhead whose role in the movie was ill-defined. It's probably better that this one didn't have sex with him. Bond looks like a giant chlamydia factory to me.

The "villain" is similarly lame. Some smarmy businessman whose evil master plan is to destabilize the Bolivian government and overcharge for utilities? How exciting! That's way more interesting than someone building a weather-control device or awesome space-based laser or something!

Loser.

It doesn't really matter, though, because the plot is just an excuse for blowing shit up. Which they do reasonably well. Lots of shit blows up.

Hell, at one point an entire giant building blows up because someone backs a car into a wall. That's exciting!

Apparently that super-high-tech building (powered by hydrogen fuel cells!) was built without even the most rudimentary fire suppression technology. That seems like a major oversight on the part of the contractor, especially if you're going to have big tanks labeled "hydrogen" scattered about everywhere. Live and learn, I guess.

I think the fight scenes might have been well done, but since the director decided to use the shakiest camera in the world and cut to a new angle every 0.3 seconds or so, I couldn't really tell. It might have been Bond and his nemesis sitting around drinking tea very loudly.

There was some running around too, jumping on rooftops and stuff. It prompted Mrs. Unicow to wonder how Bond's ankles did not end up broken. I postulate that he had some fancy high-top loafers with excellent ankle support.

There were also cars and planes and stuff, which was more interesting than most of the other parts of the movie. Though the car chase suffered from the same "hey let's change the angle every fucking millisecond so nobody can see what's going on" disease. The plane part was pretty decent, at least.

The plot also apparently had some continuity with the plot of Casino Royale. I did see that movie, but that helped me not at all. Casino Royale didn't make any sense to me at the time, and they didn't bother to provide any further explanation in this movie. If you're going to try to have an ongoing plot element, it would help if it were actually memorable.

One thing I will give this movie, though. It was better than "Live Free or Die Hard," which I just saw recently and which was so profoundly stupid it nearly put me into a coma. But this wasn't much better.

Score: 4 "This movie sucked"s out of 5

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jimmy Writes a Newspaper Article: A short play.

Hello readers.

I am taking a lot of cold medicine and have just read the most wonderful article in the Sentinel.

It's about a study! A study that purports to show that kids who watch sexy tv are more likely to get teen-pregnated than kids who don't. It has inspired me to write this short play about the writing of the story.

Keep in mind this is entirely fictitious. It's a fantasy of what may have gone into the writing of this piece of journalistic brilliance, nothing more. Enjoy!



Characters:
  • Mr. Crinchley: The editor of the paper. Known for his conservative social stances and tendency to blame broad social problems on things like rap music or bikini waxing.
  • Jimmy: Cub reporter for the paper. Idealistic go-getter who has not yet been beaten down by the world.
  • Kids #1,2 & 3: just kids, may all be played by the same kid if necessary.
  • Dr. Foureyes: some liberal elitist intellectual.

Scene opens in Mr. Crinchley's office, where Jimmy is getting assigned a story:

Mr. Crinchley: Jimmy, I have a job for you.

Jimmy: Gee willikers, that's great boss! What do you need me to do?

Mr. Crinchley: I have this press release here from the RAND corporation. It says that watching dirty tv shows makes kids get pregnant. I require you turn it into a story so I can write an editorial about it in a few days.

Jimmy: Golly, boss, I don't know much about research methods or whatever. This is going to be a head-scratcher!

Mr. Crinchley: Goddammit son! I don't want boring stories about research methods! That's what the liberal intellectual elitists want you to do, with their fancy haircuts and arugula-sandwiches, and high school diplomas, and ivory egghead towers, and... [goes on muttering for awhile]

Jimmy [interrupting]: But boss, how can I make this a story and not just a press release? Also, why is the RAND corporation doing research on teen pregnancy? Don't they usually deal with national security matters?

Mr. Crinchley: It's all the same, Jimmy! As you'll learn when you grow up to be a conservative newspaper editor like myself, all these things we're upset about are part of the same vast conspiracy.
First there was the bombing of the USS Cole, then 9/11, now it's sexy tv shows that are forcing our daughters to get knocked up by Mexicans!

Jimmy: Mexicans?

Mr. Crinchley: Mexicans! And Muslims too! [quietly] Must never forget the Muslims... Also, probably they're turning our kids gay!

Jimmy: Ummm... I think the Muslims and gays might be outside the realm of this study.

Mr. Crinchley: Good journalistic instincts, Jimmy! You'll be an ace reporter yet!

Jimmy beams.

Mr. Crinchley: Anyway, go out there and interview some teenagers about this research that neither I, nor you, nor they have actually read. That'll get to the bottom of whether or not it's true.

Jimmy: Sure thing, boss!


Jimmy leaves the office and heads to the local mall, or school, or wherever it is he can find teenagers. Upon finding them, he goes up and steels himself for an interview.


Jimmy: Hey kids! Who wants to be interviewed to be in the paper? You'll be famous!

Kids all mumble half-hearted okays.

Jimmy (to Kid 1): Okay, you first. I only actually have one question and here it is: A study by very smart people says that kids watching sexy tv shows leads to higher teen pregnancy. Are they right?

Kid 1: Huh? I guess. I'm only fifteen.

Jimmy: Thanks! [to himself]: Excellent, that's the solid confirmation from a trusted source that I needed!

Jimmy (to Kid 2): How about you? These people did a long and expensive study and say that sex on tv makes kids have babies. Are you going to argue with them?

Kid 2: I guess not.

Jimmy (to Kid 2): Surprise followup! What do you watch on tv?

Kid 2: Oh, mostly PBS and the Discovery Channel.

Jimmy: Ever watch MTV?

Kid 2: Once in awhile, I guess.

Jimmy (excitedly): MTV it is! [chuckles] Oh you kids and your MTV! I know how it is, I used to love it myself!

Kid 2: Whatever. I have to go. [walks away]

Jimmy (to Kid 3): Hey last kid! Will watching sex on tv make you get pregnant?

Kid 3: No, that's dumb. What the hell is wrong with you?

Jimmy: Great! Conflict like this makes for a good story! Is it okay if I quote you and then twist everything around to basically say you're wrong?

Kid 3: No.

Jimmy: Too bad. Now get lost, kid!


Kid 3 walks away looking annoyed. Kid 1, who is still hanging around for some reason, spots Dr. Foureyes and calls out to him.


Kid 1: Hey Dr. Foureyes! Come talk to this reporter guy!

Jimmy (to himself): Hmm, maybe I can sneak one egghead in past Mr. Crinchley, if it makes the story better.

Dr. Foureyes (walking over): Hi there Kid 1. What's this all about?

Jimmy: I have a question for you, doctor. Would you mind?

Dr. Foureyes (cleaning his glasses): Certainly not, my good man. Ask away!

Jimmy: Does sexy tv make people pregnant?

Dr. Foureyes: That question is idiotic. If you're talking about the recent study by the RAND corporation, then I'd need to actually read the article in Pediatrics and examine their methodology before I can speculate on the validity of the study. Do you have a copy?

Jimmy (looking confused): No. Why would I?

Dr. Foureyes: Because you're writing a newspaper article about it. Shouldn't you have at least read the study you're supposed to be reporting on?

Jimmy: You're a wacky one, doc! Could you just answer the question? TV makes people get pregnant: yes or no?

Dr. Foureyes: As I've said, it's impossible for me to adequately critique a study I haven't read. However, since you seem so insistent I will say that I strongly suspect that even if a correlation can be shown there is unlikely to be a causative relationship.

Jimmy: I don't know what most of those words mean. Yes or no?

Dr. Foureyes: I suspect no.

Jimmy: Great, thanks doc!


Jimmy interviews a few more kids, then leaves and returns to the newspaper office, where he writes his story in record time. He presents it to Mr. Crinchley for approval.


Mr. Crinchley: Jimmy, this is a totally biased article. You present almost no points of view except those who agree with the outcome of the study, you mostly interviewed people who are in no way qualified to judge the study, and the few qualified or opposing points of view were immediately discarded.

Jimmy: Does that mean you don't like it?

Mr. Crinchley: Haven't you been listening, Jimmy? I love it!


Jimmy and Mr. Crinchley share a hug. Curtain closes.

THE END

Sunday, November 09, 2008

That was easy

So, it has now been over a month since I decided to post something every day for a month. How time flies!

Anyway, that was pretty easy. Just fill the days you don't feel like writing with goofy videos. No problem.

I'll still probably be posting fairly often, since I'm a creature of habit. But I won't be forcing myself to post every day if I really don't feel like it.

Now I'm taking a rest and trying to recover from the mystery illness that has virtually incapacitated me for the last few days. Disease sucks. So long for now!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Racism now dead! (According to racists.)

There's one thing about the media coverage of Obama's victory that's been really getting on my nerves. It started basically as soon as his victory was announced and hasn't stopped since. It's the excessive focus on the fact that a black man is the President Elect.

Yes, it's historic. Yes, it represents a milestone. Yes, it's deeply meaningful, especially to those who lived through segregation. It's fine to recognize those things.

What's not so good is to pretend like this represents the end of racism. Obama is not the first black man to achieve great things, he's just the first black man to be elected President. Racism hasn't gone away.

Even more annoying is when the people claiming that Obama's victory represents the end of racism are blatantly racist themselves.

Let's go to my new favorite source of crazy idiots and swipe some comments from the S&E's commenting forums!

Here's a lovely one to start off with!
i better never again hear j.jackson ,al sharpton or the commie press say america is a racist nation or ill take my mc cain signs and put them where the sun dont shine.
Yeah, clearly it's not a racist nation. It's just one where some impotent jackass threatens to sodomize black leaders with campaign signs for saying things he doesn't like.

Surely that's just one nutjob, right? He probably got condemned by all the other posters in our new non-racist America!

Or not:
I hear you, what will Black people say now we have a Black president??. No more Moaning, no more Whitey is holding me back.

I wont hold my breath though!!
Yeah, stupid whiny black people!

Wait, I've never actually heard a black person say that (except perhaps ironically). Have these idiotic commenters ever actually talked to a black person? My bet is no.

And there's yet more support for our initial comment. Here's someone else who's creepily eager to sodomize black leaders with yard signs.
Let me know when you do I'll take some of those signs! and help you place them.
From the same author of that comment (someone who goes by "QEII" and claims to have voted for Obama, while also predicting the Illuminati will kill him in six months. Seriously.), we get this gem:
I am hearing a lot of feedback that the blacks are making this racist.
Damn those blacks for causing racism! Don't they realize that if they'd just be white there would be no racism at all? It's all their fault!

It gets much worse. Here's some poor discriminated-against white dude whining about how much black people suck:
well, I've been discriminated against since i was a teenager and the funny thing is I'm white! The people to blame for the bad habits of the black people is their parents, parents parents, and so on. Older black people will tell their children "See that white kid? Knock them down cause your grandmother was knocked down."
Give me a break blacks! I never did anything to you and all of you are living the past.....already this morning; there is discriminating going on. Whoopy that a 102 year old black woman got to vote! Why didn't she vote for the Presidents before? Take advantage of your rights when the white presidents got them for you instead of waiting for a black President is in office.....so, who is the stupid race? Gosh! Stupid, dumbest dang people ever....oh! And you are not African American unless you moved here from Africa! And on top of that; i wouldn't be advertising that your African American just to the fact that the place is a disease for all and rapes happen along with Aids. Yeah right! Whey would I want to state I came from Africa!??!!? That's embarrassing! Get a life and get out there and pick cotton like your should be doing!
There's nothing I can even add to that. I'll just move on, while hoping this individual lives a long and profoundly miserable life.

Want some more nonsense? Sure!
Bill Bennet on CNN said it BEST

This is a great Country......Lets "hope" he is at "least" a good president.

I totally agree,....I didn't vote for the big-O, but I am glad he has one cause now "we are no longer a Racist-country!"

time to get rid of Quota's, Equal-Oppurtunity, and all the other special programs......Obama either showed us that Hard-work and perserverance got him there..........or he got there by not having to be the best, just very tan.
Yeah, most of that is gibberish, and I'm not even entirely sure what he was trying to say. Still, it's another racist douchewad saying America isn't racist. Better yet, he's trying to use Obama's victory as an excuse to do away with "Equal-Oppurtunity" [Sic]!

Listen, morons. If anything, Obama won despite being black.

Did some people vote for him because he's black? Yes. Just like some people voted for McCain because he's white. Or more significantly, just like some people voted for McCain because Obama is black.

I can't say I know just how many people fit into each category. I do strongly suspect that far fewer people voted for Obama because he's black than voted for McCain because Obama is black. But really, race isn't a significant deciding factor for anyone but a small group of people.

Yes, Obama got the overwhelming majority of the black vote. So did Kerry. So did Gore. So has every Democrat for the last few decades. That matters a whole hell of a lot more than race. So does political skill. There are reasons that Alan Keyes, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton never became serious contenders. If people really voted for Obama based on race, wouldn't they have done better?

I could pull more quotes from that forum, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Obama being elected President doesn't mean racism isn't still a problem in this country. Hell, there were white supremacists who supported him.

In fact, many white supremacists are hoping that Obama's election will set off a "white backlash".
PEARL, Miss. — They're not exactly rooting for Barack Obama, but prominent white supremacists anticipate a boost to their cause if he becomes the first black president. His election, they say, would trigger a backlash -- whites rising up, a revolution of sorts -- that they think is long overdue.

He'd be a "visual aid," says former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, in trying to bring others around to their view that whites have lost control of America. Obama's election, says another, would jar whites into action, writing letters, handing out pamphlets rather than sitting around complaining.
Yeah, racism isn't dead. It's alive and well.

Obama's victory may mark a milestone in race relations, but it sure as hell hasn't ended racism. There's a lot of work left to be done, and a lot of bigots standing in the way. Hopefully we'll get there one day, but it's going to take awhile. Pretending things are better than they actually are doesn't benefit anyone.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

This is a fun map

If you've got some time to kill, I direct you to Boston.com's election map thingy. It's really nifty.



For instance, here you see the presidential election by town in the area around Fitchburg. Mousing over brings up the percentages. So you can see Fitchburg was pretty much on par with the rest of the state, while some of the little dumb towns in the area actually went for McCain (usually not by a whole lot, mind you).

You can also get numbers for pretty much every race and ballot question you could possibly want. The question 2 map is pretty cool too. Apparently only three towns voted no on it. I wonder why.


[Update:] Hey, the New York Times has a pretty good map too. Not quite as locally-oriented, of course. Still nifty.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yay!

It's over, and the people and questions I wanted to win actually won for a change! Sure there were a few things in other parts of the country that didn't turn out perfectly, but overall pretty good.

So it's happy dance time!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

John McCain needs my help!

A few weeks ago I went to this page on John McCain's website.

I was going to make a humorous sign that said "I am Joe Lieberman, the human embodiment of phlegm" or something like that. They were then supposed to email it to me, at which point I would chuckle softly to myself.

But since they're dirty liars, no sign ever came and I merely ended up on McCain's email list!

I remained on the mailing list, because some of the emails are hilarious. Also, they're not nearly as long or wordy as the ones from the Obama campaign. Because most McCain supporters are barely literate.

Today's was a little weird, though. They actually sent me a list of people and phone numbers and a script for calling people for GOTV purposes. Here's what it looked like (with the phone numbers obfuscated by me):


What the hell, McCain?

I can maybe see automatically sending ten strangers' names and phone numbers via email to people who actually volunteered to help the campaign. Or maybe even people who had donated money to it.

But they're sending these emails to me because I was trying to do something fun with their broken-ass website and had to use my email address. That's just screwed up. I don't want to know who these people are!

I realize no actual human beings want to do GOTV stuff for McCain, but to send this stuff out to everyone and beg them to help is just sad.

Also, doesn't McCain realize that the GOP is supposed to do voter suppression? It's the Democrats who actually try to get people to vote, the Republicans are supposed to try to keep them from voting. Poor confused man.

Anyway, if anyone wants to know of ten people in Ohio they can call and ask to go vote for Obama, let me know.

Why you need to vote today

Here's a collection of comments left on the S&E commenting forum by local idiots.

This is the reason you need to vote. Never mind the hope and change and all that. You need to vote because there's a good chance that these people are going to vote. If you don't, they get their say and you don't.

So here are some people whose vote you can feel good about canceling out.

From the S&E's endorsement of Obama:
  • "Obama = the next anti christ"
    - by "Friend of Dino"

  • "Tea and crumpets for everyone!

    President Bush was talking about the terrorists and their sponsors. But he might just as well have been talking about all you hate America morons at home."
    - by "Hate America crowd"

  • "You are spinless jelly fish coward! Obama will make a mockery of the principles this great nation was founded on. You've never fought for anything, I can tell by you cowardly attitude. Please stop insulting my brothers in arms, They fought for you and of course you have no thanks or respect. War is the answers in Al Iraq, you would be **** and thrown in a ditch. 40 million liberated and no respect"
    - by "dan leominster"

  • "since when is a newspaper that is supposed to be unbiased media coverage supporting anybody in a campaign! It certainly doesn't shock me that this newspaper is doing this, but they will NEVER receive another dime from me. The media is electing our next president...you and I and our votes are quite secondary...just remember it when the sh^t starts flying. Support for any election by a media source isn't what was intended and I'm surprised more isn't being said about it. "
    - by "Bruce W. Marien" (who has apparently never noticed that newspapers offer endorsements at every election and have done so pretty much forever)

  • "It will be a sad day next tuesday if the socialist gets elected. The last president that raised taxes during a severe recession directly preceded the great depression and I feel that will happen again if these socialist tax policies are put in place. [...] If this monster is elected nex tuesday, you can change our name to USSA (United Socialist States of America. "
    - by "Fitch Resident"

  • "November 4 could usher in a sequence of events that have everything to do with the survival of western civilization. [...] Al Qaeda has a bead on the US and they recognize our vulnerable situation. They realize that our president is paralyzed and our democratic congress will be complicit and even helpful in our own demise. They will be very careful to keep their intentions under wraps until after Nov 4. Their dream scenario will be Obama in the White House, as CINC and the reelection of a surrender-first congress. They know that a major attack on US interests before the election will virtually assure McCains election and maybe even boot out most of the cowards in the democrat congress, that would not serve them well. Look for an attack after the election and before Bush leaves office. They would love to attack us on Bush’s watch but only after we have safely installed their man in the White house. This attack will probably occur even if McCain is elected but the following scenario will unfold if we elect Obama:"
    - by "Stamos" (who has scary terrorists hiding under his bed)


On an article about children's mock elections:
  • "Vote Obama/Palin if you want a clean White America! Let's support the supreme master race above all!"
    - by "Independent Racist"


On a really terrible article about Question 2:
  • "Who wrote this question? The Federation of Puerto Rican drug dealers. This is just a front so they can divide their dope into an ounce or less and not get charged with dealing. Behind every weed dealer are harder drugs such as coke and heroin." - by "Concerned Citizen"

  • "YOU'RE the moron if you think for a second that ANY Defocrap is going to give a tax BREAK" - by "TTT" (what the fuck is a "Defocrap"?)


I could go on like this for awhile, but won't. Suffice it to say there are a lot of comments as dumb as, or dumber than, these. And the people making these comments are going to vote.

Vote. Or else.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote.

Way too lazy for a post today. Resting up for the clusterfuck that is the American electoral process. I'm going to go eat some soup.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hot Prognosticating Action!

Well, two days to go. Allow me to take this opportunity to offer predictions. Because I know how much the world values predictions made by some random guy sitting at his computer.

Let's go down the ballot as it will appear in Fitchburg!

Presidential Election

I've been saying for probably the last year that Obama's going to come out 10-20 points ahead of McCain in the popular vote, and I'm sticking with it. I'll give him a 15-point margin, because why not?

The remaining candidates (Baldwin, Barr, McKinney, and Nader) will be insignificant, with Barr maybe managing 6-8% and everyone else under 2%.

As far as the electoral college goes, let's give Obama 333 electoral votes. Because then people would say he's half the antichrist and the rioting could begin on schedule.

U.S. Senator

Kerry by 25+ points.

U.S. Representative

Olver by 25+ points.

A bunch of races where people run unopposed

The unopposed people will win. In landslides.

Question 1

No.

Question 2

Yes.

Question 3

Yes.

Nonbinding question about greenhouse gases.

Yes.

I got bored with making up percentages. But there you have it. Feel free to tell me how incredibly wrong I am.

I know a house that needs egging