Monday, July 31, 2006

Up for grabs

Here's one that I already made if anybody wants it. The colors, specifically the green, look better in real life.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


For those of you out there who would like their own techno-cozie, here is a picture of the colors of yarn that are available. Pick three colors and let me know if you have anything other than the regular iPod so I can get the dimensions right. I can also do a star or a heart (I think, it has yet to be tested) so you can choose this as well. Otherwise I'll just make stripes. For examples please reference the techno-cozie photo already posted.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Some lingering thoughts.

If it's all a matter of comparing costs to benefits, have I, in the posts below, given my support to medical experiments on unwilling human subjects? If torturing one human being can save the lives of ten, is that ok by me? When I was typing the previous two posts, I hadn't really thought through all the implications of my position. Now I wonder if I can support embryonic stem cell research and still oppose the government's secret experiments on impovershed Americans in the 50's and 60's or the Nazi experiments on concentration camp prisoners. Does this whole argument have to fall back on whether we consider an embryo a human, or can we support stem cell research even if we assume Brownback's position that they are living humans (or the equivalent)?

MM Part II

Please read Part I below first.

The truth is, we face complicated decisions like this every day. Our minds are wired to deal with these problems. We have even developed ways of representing the decisions using numeric values. Some may think it’s a little unfeeling to attach a numeric value to a human life, but we do it all the time, usually by monetizing the value as in the realm of insurance and cost-benefit analyses in the product liability context.

So why don’t we try it here. I’m not an economist so I may screw this up a little, but we’ll see. First let’s attach an arbitrary value to each life. The actual value attached is not as important as the relation of the values to each other. So let’s just say that all ten human lives are equal. Let’s also say that the value of the embryo is equal to that of a post fetal human (I do not think that this is the case, nor are there many in America who do). So let’s give everyone involved a value of 1 (and let’s also make it money). And now let’s look at the effect on our hypo. We have two choices: A) don’t throw the switch, and B) throw the switch. Under choice (A) there is a 100% chance of the ten people dying. There is also (under the easy set of assumptions) a 100% chance of the embryo surviving. So if we choose (A), we we are left with $1.

Choice (B) is slightly more complicated (update: actually, it’s not more complicated) but we can still arrive at a monetary value for it by discounting for the odds. So under choice (B) there is a sixty percent chance of ten people living. So the discounted value of choice (B) is $6. You would have to be an idiot to pick (A)!! That or you would have to value an embryo six times more than you value a living breathing member of society. Even anti-abortionists don’t support those kinds of numbers.

Of course, I picked random numbers and random percentages. But they still illustrate the point that it is possible to make a reasoned decision on the point. If for instance, there is only a 10% chance of embryonic stem cell research curing the diseases of 100,000 people, then, assuming that we value an embryo to the same extent as we value a post fetal human, we should be willing to sacrifice 1000 embryos in order to realize the 10% chance of curing 100,000. Now if embryonic stem cell research has the potential to produce a cure for Parkinson’s, Alzeimers, cancer, and other diseases, the number of potentially saved humans is quite high. Even if there is a less than 10% chance of actually finding a cure through the research, we should still be willing to use a fairly large number of embryos to find some cures, especially since it is difficult to sustain an argument that an actual living human being should be valued the same as an undeveloped embryo, of which millions are naturally aborted every year.

Food for thought.

Morality Monday (Wednesday Observed) Part I

Note that this post is quite long and has been divided into two posts.

Last week, Bush vetoed a bill that would have lifted his previous moratorium on funding with federal money any new embryonic stem cell lines. The rationale is easily understood: it is wrong to take a human life in order to save another. So the question is, do you agree? Another interesting question is, does Bush himself even believe that?

For me, the answer to the first is a strong disagree. As for Bush, his actions on certain front-page issues over the past five and 7/10 years seem to suggest that even he recognizes that sometimes the value to be gained from sacrificing a human life outweighs the value of preserving that life. After all, Bush certainly thinks that the value of removing Saddam Hussein from power was greater than the value of a single American soldier’s life. In fact, he clearly thinks the benefits are greater than thousands of American soldiers’ lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives. As Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback would point out, these lives were embryos once.

To me, the question is strongly reminiscent of the age-old (or at least as old as trains) ethics question that goes something like this: A train is quickly approaching a group of ten people who are standing on the track, unaware of the approaching train. There is no way these people could move off the track before the train hits them. But right before the group of people is a track-switcher-thingy, which, if switched in time, would redirect the train onto a secondary track on which a single individual stands. You are the only one who can reach the switch in time to save the group of ten by condemning to death the single individual. Not knowing anything about the individuals involved, would you throw the switch?

Same question as the stem cell issue, except that the stem cell question gives you a tiny bit more information about the individuals involved. The embryos, we know, have the potential to develop into a living, breathing human being. So let’s apply the information involved in the stem cell debate to the train track hypo. Instead of one person on the secondary track, let’s say there is one embryonic stem cell laying right on the track like a penny. So now if you throw the switch, ten fully developed human beings will live and one embryonic stem cell will be destroyed. If you do nothing, the stem cell will continue to develop and will eventually become a human being. Now what? Do you throw the switch? What if there’s only a fifty percent chance of the embryo developing into a post fetal human?

My answer to the first train question is that I would throw the switch, so naturally the answer to all following questions is to throw the switch and save the numerically greater group. But the stem cell issue isn’t quite so clear cut. There is no guarantee that embryonic stem cell research will ever save a single life. So a more apt analogy (Apt I say!) might be that if you throw the switch there is a sixty percent chance that the ten people will live, a one hundred percent chance that the embryo will be destroyed, and a forty percent chance that all ten people and the embryo will be destroyed. Well now it looks a little sticky. How can we decide now that there is some uncertainty in the world? After all, the only sure way of preserving at least a single life is to not throw the switch, thus preserving the embryo. But wait!!! Even if you don’t throw the switch, there is fairly good chance that the embryo will be naturally destroyed by one of many other factors prior to ever developing into a post fetal human!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Tidbit about Nell

This was taken near where I have spent many a childhood summer. I miss the mountains!!!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

You heard it here first

Today, July 13, 2006 at 10:10pm, let me be the first to predict a fairly unpleasant development in the Middle East. As the already explosive atmosphere turns even more violent and an all out war develops between Israel on the one hand and Palestine, Lebanon and Syria on the other, an interesting and gleefully ironic twist will occur when America joins the fight on Israel's side while Iraq's newly elected leadership votes to send their American-trained army into the fray on the side of Syri-Pal-Anon. Deliciously ironic that American soldiers will once again be fighting Iraqi soldiers, though not in Iraq, but in neighboring Syria. Of course, nuclear-capable North Korea will not pass on the opportunity to attempt to retake South Korea while the U.S. is forced to withdraw some of its forces guarding the North/South border for deployment in the mideast.

The unpredictable part of the picture is the role China and Russia will play. China, on the one hand, will be salivating at the opportunity to get behind North Korea and pressure them into moving some firepower eastward into Japan. North Korea will then capitulate to Chinese pressure, thinking (wrongly as it would turn out) that if North Korea rubbed China's back, China would return the favor. On the other hand, China has a lot to lose in a reversion by the capitalist Japan into communist rule. On the other hand, China may elect instead to remain neutral on the North Korean front, allowing them to tire themselves out in South Korea and then taking over a reunified Korea and then moving to subdue Taiwan and Tibet. China clearly will stay out of the Middle Eastern conflict, which at this point Egypt has decided to join on the Palestinian side, preferring instead to hedge their bets by letting the rest of the world expend their resources while investing in foreign manufacturing.

Russia will most likely not remain so detached from the Middle Eastern conflict, preferring to side with the more totalitarian side (Palestinian/Syria/Lebanon) to whom they will supply only weapons at first, but when the conflict appears to take a turn in their side's favor will openly support the Palestinians by sending troops into Turkey (which, despite massive public disapproval, will have allied with Israel and the U.S.). It is possible that Russia will actually use the distraction of the two wars to reunify the USSR, clearly Putin's ultimate goal from day one. In furtherance of this goal, Russia will deploy troops into the former soviet states, including the Baltic states (and maybe Finland). This will prove to be the most deadly conflict of the three wars.

Domestically, the U.S. will reinstitute the draft and I will pursue that PhD in Classics I've been meaning to get along with an LLM in Taxation. Unfortunately, the conflicts will continue for long enough that I will be drafted immediately following my dissertation on the effects of excise taxes on Demosthenes' use of meter in his Philipics. Shortly thereafter I will meet my demise in an embarrassing turtle-hunting accident aboard the USS Ronald Reagan off the western coast of Australia.

So certain am I that much of this will come to pass that I'm willing to take bets. 3 to 1 odds. Pony up.

Patenting Tax Reduction Strategies

Here's a (very) short summary of what sounds like yet another evil-minded attempt to make people pay for every single thing they do during the day. I'm somewhat ambivalent about intellectual property and patent stuff in general. I have no real background on the subject and haven't put a lot of thought into it. But it seems like the ordinary rationales for allowing people to patent things does not apply in the case of methods with which to comply with the IRC.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Video on the internet rules

So I think that this video is amazingly funny. However, before anyone clicks on it, I must warn you, it is sexual in content and most people would consider it inappropriate. Do not click on it if you don't like dirty jokes. You have been warned. That said, it is sooooooo funny.

To the tune of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever"

Nell was singing this tune the other day, but she didn't know all the lyrics. So I loooked them up. They are as follows:

"Be kind to your web-footed friends.
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live all alone in the swamp,
Where the weather is cold and damp.
Well, you may think that this is the end.
Yes, it is, but to prove that you are wrong,
We're going to sing it once again,
Oh, yes we will, but it will be just a bit louder!

Be kind to your web-footed friends.
For a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live at the bottom of the swamp,
Where the weather is cold and damp.
You may think that this is the end.
Well, it is -- you are right!
So, just remember:
Be kind to your web-footed friends!
Be ever kind, yes, oh, so kind to all the duckies!"

Attributed to Fred Allen via The Dallas Wind Symphony.

My world cup prediction

Italy over France, 2-1

That said, I actually kind of hope France wins. The story-line with Zidane's retirement is pretty compelling and Henry's goal in France's victory over Brazil was awesome.

Post your predictions, but there's only about 30 minutes before the game starts, so hurry.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Am I a member?

This is a pretty amusing site. If you are or know an athiest you may or may not enjoy this link.

Filosofical Friday

Marquis de Condorcet:

"In general, a law which has not been voted unanimously involves subjecting men to an opinion which is not their own, or to a decision they believe contrary to their interest. It follows that a very great probability of truth of this decision is the only reasonable and just grounds according to which one demand such submission."

Discuss, unless your mind has been blown.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Why do you torture me thus, NBC???

It was traumatic enough for me to watch the season finale of The Office when it originally aired. But tonight they had to go and air it again. When Pam rejects Tim I squealed with pain. Both times. When Pam kissed Jim I squealed with delight. Both times. I can't take this king of rollercoaster emotional stuff. It is too hard on me.

The pain is augmented by the inner torment I feel when I have to face a choice between the beauty of unrequited love and the pleasure of true love realized. Both have their attractions. The part of me that loves Chaz Bukowski crazes the unrequited love. That sharp lingering pain that makes life more vivid. The pain that lets you know you're alive. The part of me that loves Pride and Prejudice desperately wants things to work out in a way that suggests there is order in the universe. That the good guys win in the end. That no matter how shitty things get, it will be worth it in the end.

My blog is malfunctioning!!!

Hopefully this post will help.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Some Greek Trivia

So it turns out there is a passive voice conjugation distinct from the middle voice. The catch is that it exists only in the Aorist, Future, and Future Perfect tenses. And as I recall, I was told that I never had to know the Future Perfect Passive conjugations.

The more you know.

Crazy current events

It has been my policy for some time not to post about current events, for fear of attracting new readers or entertaining current readers. But today I'll make an exception, because something strange. Apparently, Kenneth Lay, disgraced and convicted former CEO of Enron, was killed today by a North Korean missile. I'm not sure of the details, though, because I heard the news via the radio of the car stopped next to me at Skinker and Lindell. I guess he had it tuned to NPR or something.

But it's kind of weird, isn't it? Bush is apparently taking a sort of soft line toward the incident. Despite the fact that a foreign country launched a direct missile attack against the mainland US, the fact that it killed only one person, and that person had fallen out of favor with voters, was enough to convince Bush that the correct approach was reiterating his support for multilateral talks.

You want to know what I think? I think this multilateral peace-nik bullshit has no place in the modern world. Need I remind you of September 14? Or was it the 12th? Anyway, you know what I mean. How many threats is this "peace-at-any-cost" president going to sweep under the rug while spouting his bleeding-heart liberal "let's talk it over" garbage????

Now I'm not saying we shed a tear for Lay, but some prime real estate in Aspen, Colorado was severely singed (I assume, like I said, I haven't really had time to get the details, though I'm sure by now they've been thoroughly white-washed by the liberal press). Aspen's not the greatest place in the world, but it's still American soil. And I know what you're going to say, and I agree. The residents of Aspen are some of the worst, snottiest, dipshittiest people on the planet. I say this from experience. I've met many Aspenites and every last one of them is a waste of a human being, an utter waste.

So I'm starting a grassroots campaign, "Nuke North (korea) Now!" Anyone who comments on this post, or has ever commented on any post on this blog, is hereby a member. Now get out there, footsoldiers, and change some hearts!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Look, Ma, I can Knit!

Poor Dicaeopolis!!

So he's working his ass off, plowing the field, cursed with a lazy slave, when his plow runs across a big rock. He calls for lazy Xanthias to come help him move the rock, but Xanthias says it's not possible. The rock's just too big! But Dicaeopolis makes him help anyway and together they lift the rock. As they are carrying it out of the field, Xanthias stumbles and drops the rock. Naturally it falls upon Dicaeopolis's foot. Ouch! Clumsy Slave!!!

Re-Learning Greek

So I came in to work, but I don't really have any work to do. Knowing this ahead of time, I brought with me "Athenaze: Book I" in order that I may re-learn ancient Greek, which I was never particularly good at to begin with. Without further ado, I present my translation of Chapter 2-a:

"Dicaeopolis comes out of the house and calls Xanthias. Xanthias is a slave; on the one hand he is strong, on the other hand he is lazy. For he does not work unless Dicaeopolis is present. Now he is sleeping in the house. And so Dicaeopolis calls him and says, "Come slave, Xanthias. Why are you sleeping? Don't be lazy, but hurry."

What an epic story. To really be appreciated, it must be read in its original greek,