Saturday, August 25, 2007

hogs back to normal

For anyone wondering if Razorbacks football would recover from a tumultous offseason, it seems that they've bounced back nicely this week. How do we know? Because players are once again appearing on the police blotter, that's how. This time it's Marcus Harrison, for "a felony drug charge and several misdemeanors" -- impressive even by Arkansas standards and good enough for a front page headline on Looks like a return to normalcy in Fayetteville...might as well get used to seeing stuff like this regularly again. Just like old times!

america, china, and technology

This is a carryover from my previous post but is worth addressing on its own. When it comes to the complexion of government, the emphasis of the education system plays a large role. The government has great influence in the shaping of the education system, and the products of that system in turn have great influence over the form and direction of the government. But I hope to address education by itself in more detail here.

In China -- and most of the rest of the world and Asia especially, for that matter -- technical fields and a strong technical background are greatly valued.* The emphasis in the education system reflects this, as students are taught math and science at much higher levels during their younger years and many pursue careers in fields heavily dependent on such education. In the United States, though, math and science education is anemic, near the bottom for industrialized nations (I want to say 37th out of 40 industrialized countries but I can't verify that). In keeping with the example being set by their government, schools are more interested in wiggling around the elephant in the room than addressing it. As a result, less and less American students are pursuing careers in science and technology, those that do are increasingly less equipped to excel in those fields, and the few that eventually get degrees are nowhere near the aptitude of foreigners with comparable years of education.

Friendships I've had with students from other countries support this. For example, my college friend from the United Arab Emirates talked on occasion about how he and his classmates did advanced math in grade school and calculus early in high school, and he had seen advanced mathematics before he even entered college. He thought mathematics education in American schools was a joke. I also remember a German exchange student I had a math class with in high school saying the class was absurdly easy compared to those in his country -- and the teacher was known as one of the hardest at the school. (That's Holmesley for those keeping score at home.) He also mentioned that our school's AP English class was stuff they did as sophomores, so even if it's not as pronounced the problem goes beyond just math and science.

Heck, just for scare tactic purposes, consider that in China 1.5 million engineering graduates enter the workforce annually compared with just 100,000 in the U.S. That's a 15:1 ratio for countries with about a 4:1 population ratio, and the gap has been increasing year by year. And that doesn't even take into consideration the high number of Chinese nationals graduating from American universities. It's barely worth bothering to look at postgraduate degree statistics. Heck, do any Americans even get PhD's anymore? A cursory glance at the authors in any trade society journal would raise the question. This growing disparity at all levels of education ain't gonna correct itself anytime soon, folks, and we haven't yet begun to see what impact that will have on the technological advantage we've taken for granted for a long time. For example, people talk about the Chinese military threat of today and the near future...just wait several years. Forget population growth and natural resources and all that, history has almost always favored those with the best technology.

We all know America's education system is hosed up these days. Which sector of the system is most critical or worst off is up for debate. But let me submit that while non-technological areas like history and writing/rhetoric -- liberal arts if you will, though I'd rather not use that term here -- are important in their own ways, probably more so with regard to personal growth and one's ability to appreciate things beyond what we can see and test, technology is of far greater importance when it comes to confronting the cold realities of the world, such as disease, war, famine, and the like. Neither can be discounted, but for our own sake as a country and the well-being of the rest of the world I'd sure like to see the U.S. start caring about technical fields more. Like it or not, the world and the people that inhabit it are what they are. We'd better be ready to deal with that when the time comes -- especially if those around us will be.

* I've been told recently that America is more or less alone in its devaluing of technical trades and especially engineering, and that in the rest of the world engineers are still held in high esteem and are respected accordingly. But that's another topic for another day.

speaking of china...

I heard once upon a time, not so long ago and probably at work, an interesting contrast between the governments of China and the United States. I can't verify the accuracy of it but it's an interesting thought, and I tend to believe it's true at least to some extent.

As the story goes, in China the top government officials (presumably cabinet-level positions, leaders' staff, etc.) are often scientists and engineers, showing that the Chinese place a high value on innovative government and are willing to work at figuring out solutions to societal problems. With China's overly pragmatic approach to running itself, I think the evidence generally supports this. But in the United States, similar positions of leadership and support are far more often filled with lawyers and businessmen. This tends to show that Americans are more interested in figuring out how to get around a problem or profiting from it than actually solving it. Again, I think the body of evidence at hand supports such a conclusion. As I recall, the guy saying this was serious about the qualification differences but stating the implications in a tongue-in-cheek kinda way. But I think he's at least partially right.

A lot of these differences are due to worldview. (Yeah, I know. Okay, no kidding, every man-made construct has a lot to do with worldview. But follow along.) Since a communist/socialist government is built on atheism and utilitarian ideals, it follows that its rulers are going to believe that they are not only responsible for solving society's ills* on their own accord but that they are actually capable of doing it. This, of course, is nonsense, as man can't solve problems that are inherent in his nature. But that won't stop some from trying. The U.S., on the other hand, is built on the ideals of limited government and a higher power that must be relied upon. Thus, in theory, our rulers wouldn't see their role as trying to solve all of society's problems but rather to just guide it in the right direction and protect its people's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And so the utilitarian approach is shunned in favor of something more...abstract? Scientists and engineers would, of course, tend to throw wishy-washy stuff out the window in favor of hard facts and pragmatic solutions. (How this abstractness bit fits with lawyers and businessmen being rulers I don't know, but maybe you can figure it out. I admit that the America half of this argument really craps itself when compared to today's political climate.)

Another cause that can't be overlooked is the different education systems in the two nations. This ties in with worldview, though, so I won't go into detail here. In summary, China places much more value on technical fields and the education to support progress in those fields, so not only will it tend to look more favorably upon leadership from that arena but it will also have more qualified scientists and engineers to draw upon as leaders. There's much more to the education angle but I'll address that in a later post.

The main cause, though, is closely tied to the way each nation's rulers are put in place. If China's communist government doesn't have to worry so much about losing power due to displeasure among the masses, it has the flexibility to tackle problems it thinks need to be solved and not give a rip whether or not the majority of the population agrees or can even recognize the problem. And it is in the rulers' best interests to put in place people who can actually solve the problem so that their government stays in power. The United States' republican (little "r") government, on the other hand, has a responsibility to act in accordance with the wishes of the citizens that put it in place and elected certain people to run it. So its rulers maintain their authority not necessarily by solving problems and advancing society but by assuring they are re-elected by their peers. So the obvious implication is that perception is everything and credible solutions matter only insofar as they affect perception. Is it hard to believe, then, that those in power will be the ones who are best at convincing people they're the leaders of choice through persuasive arguments or fistfulls of dollars? Not at all. Is this a good way to choose leaders? You decide.

Now lest anyone think I'm converting to communism or something, let me add that it's obvious which system of government is better. Sure, perhaps communism would be better in the freak instances where the needle-in-a-haystack great (in all ways) ruler has both the power and the wisdom to use it well, but its pitfalls are far worse and far more probable than those of democracy. Such is the case with a system of government built entirely around man's ability to fix his own mess. But nonetheless, every ideology and every culture has its pluses and minuses. We would be wise to learn from not only the mistakes of others but their successes as well.

* One of these "ills" is the desire and/or ability of the people to get in the way of the ruling government's wishes. So such governments aren't actually out for the best wishes of the people but rather the best wishes of themselves. Sometimes this coincides with what is wanted or needed by the populace and sometimes it doesn't.

let's hope he's right

Vox takes aim at feminazis in a recent post and makes some sweeping predictions of the inevitable demise of feminism. I find it hard to believe that the West would wisen up to the evidence that quickly, so I instead believe that the idiots in the mainstream will choose (or let others choose) to knowingly run Western civilization right into the ground before they admit to the increasingly obvious errors of their ways. Just look at the path to destruction Europe is already well along, and it's hard not to see North America following suit. But, of course, I hope I'm wrong and Vox is right.

As an aside, I believe that what's happening in China is not so much a sign of shifting attitudes on feminism -- at least not globally -- as another inevitable culture clash of traditional vs. contemporary ways of thinking (boys being preferred in traditional Chinese culture for many reasons). The Chinese, unhindered by having to abide by mob rule, are simply dealing with the problem pragmatically from the top down. One of democracy's shortcomings is that its rulers are beholden to whatever stupidity is inherent in its citizenry. Of course, this really isn't a problem unless the populace is exceptionally stupid and short-sighted -- as seems to be the case in contemporary America. So although the Commies have many other problems with their system of government, one of the few advantages they have is that those making decisions don't have to take popular sentiment into consideration, at least not so long as they can quell any backlash. Every now and then that can be a good thing.

Anyway, back to Vox's post. Here's a nice potshot:
Feminism is arguably the most retarded political ideology Mankind has ever known; women should be deeply and profoundly embarrassed to know that it is their sex's most notable intellectual contribution to date.
I think he can take the "arguably" out to make the first part more accurate, but I'm not sure I agree with the second. I would say that there are other contributions by women that far outweigh the laughingstock of feminism, the most notable of those being the simple yet profound idea that women can best serve to advance civilization not by leading it but by supporting it through being the glue that holds families together and ensures children will eventually continue to advance and contribute to the world around them instead of flushing to the tank all the progress of generations before them.* I think that's "intellectual" enough to count here and it goes without saying that such an idea blows away the newfangled mess we call feminism when it comes to overall contribution to humanity. And just about any decent scientific achievement would also be greater, though perhaps not as notable. Anyway, it is a nice quote, and if Vox is right then that bit about embarrassment is absolutely true.

His closing thought:
Communism collapsed under the weight of its own self-contradictions in seventy years. Feminism won't even last that long.
I don't necessarily disagree with his claim about feminism's lifespan. The problem is, as I alluded to right off, is that if it goes down it will likely take our society with it. But it's still comforting to know that people with the intellect of Vox are saying such things. Heck, maybe there's hope after all that our nation isn't on an unbreakable slide toward some hellish combination of socialism and chaos...well, emphasis on maybe.

UPDATE: A line about feminazis (from a woman, by the way, which once again leaves me stupified as to where the heck all these right-thinking women are) from the opening comment to Vox's post: "They have succeeded in ruining a society (the societies of western civilization in total is what I speak of) that treated women in a manner to be envied by other women throughout the world and throughout time." OUCH! So true. Interesting discussion over there about society's attitudes toward families and children, by the way.

* I suppose there's an argument to be made about how this idea originated, as Genesis seems silent on that point from what I can recall, but I won't go there. I find it most likely that women figured it out or at least put it into practice without first being told to.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

rangers 30, orioles 3

No, is not posting Little League scores as headlines. That's not a joke. THIRTY freakin' runs. In only four innings of scoring. Can you say, "Holy crap, we need some bullpen help NOW!?!?" I bet Orioles fans can. I mean, I'm no expert here, but when your relievers give up 24 runs in four innings, that's bad, right?

Best quote of the article: "Texas also set a team record for runs scored in a doubleheader -- before the second game even started." ROFL...

UPDATE: And the Rangers won the nightcap too, 9-7. That 39 runs is the most ever scored by any team in a single day of baseball. Ever. Speaking of records, 30 runs is the most ever in an AL game and the most in the bigs since 1897. If I remember correctly, this is the sixth time the 30+ feat has been pulled off in league history and the first since 1900. And by the way, the team that scored 36 runs 111 years ago guessed it, who else? Only the superpower Cubs could be capable of such brutality. Okay, they were the Chicago Colts back then, but it was the same franchise.

A co-worker actually went to the latter part of the game (must have had tix for the second game in the doubleheader and been allowed to grab a couple of empty seats while the first one finished up). He said that during Texas' 10-run eighth inning, it had gotten so out of hand that the home crowd made some noise every time a pitch slipped by a Ranger without him making contact and cheered loudly every time a strike was called. He said the place almost went berserk after the home team finally got the third out and when the game ended an inning later.

UPDATE II: It keeps getting better. The Rangers had more scoreless innings (5) than innings in which they scored (4). The Orioles dropped three spots in team ERA, from seventh to 10th, in a single game. The Rangers' output tied the MLB record for runs by a road team. I have a feeling this story is just going to keep getting funnier for a while before it dies down.

Friday, August 17, 2007

rock-solid political analysis

Need some to-the-point commentary in an age of talking heads spewing the latest trendy BS? PORCUS steps up to the plate:
Never underestimate the power of hair backed by money.

Romney has hair and money. Rudy has money but no hair. Romney beats Rudy.
And that, folks, hits closer to the true American political process than 98.3% of the crap you'll see and hear on the boob tube. Take it to heart.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

the legless runningback

Check out this Fred Jackson pic and tell me the guy isn't floating in mid-air or performing some sort of weird sci-fi teleportation stunt. His legs just plain aren't there. Weird camera angle I guess. Great shot though!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

yet more legal (in)justice

This story really needs no commentary. A woman who murdered her husband in his sleep just got out of jail after a lengthy seven-month sentence and now wants custody of her children. And given the twisted nature of the courts she probably has a very good chance of getting them back. Is it scary as all hell that such could take place in our supposedly just country? You tell me.

As expected, Vox is already on this one. There are a lot of great comments over there, which is fitting because there are so many angles to this story. Bullbleep mental illness defense, courts heavily biased toward women/minorities (as defined by the self-proclaimed minorities), emotions playing heavier than name it, it's in there. Rarely is there a bigger assortment of crap involved in any court case.

I think Res Ispa sums it up well over there:
She shot a Christian preacher. In many, mostly Muslim countries thats not really a crime. Apparently its not in Tenn either.
Yikes? Can anyone really argue with that? I mean, that's terrible but completely true in this case. Justice heck...maybe I'd better think long and hard before settling down anywhere in Tennessee. Or at least be careful of what jurisdiction I land in...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

random fire

In light of some more columns I've just been reading, I have to say that even after reading so much of his stuff it's still amazing to me how right and to the point Fred is on so many aspects of society, government, people, relationships, and almost everything else -- even religion at times. The guy's work is awesome, but it's also unfair that so much of the wisdom of humanity seems to be concentrated in one small speck of it.

seriously, could this happen anywhere else?

From a recent comment on a Vox post:
...sometime in the sixties, a benighted mayor of NYC decided that he could raise money for the city by taxing awnings. Every building in town had an awning over every window--the city would be rich! So he instituted an awning tax; within three months everyone had taken their awnings down, and the awning manufacturers went out of business.
Wow. Let's just take a minute to soak that in...

Only in NYC could something that awesomely stupid take place, and someone that awesomely stupid be elected mayor. Well, okay, maybe it could happen anywhere in the state of Massachusetts and in isolated pockets in the northeast and Pacific coast regions. Actually, the U.S. populace is plenty capable of electing someone of the same or greater idiocy to lead this wonderful country. And come to think of it, a significant portion of the U.S. population is far dumber than that mayor, and far more socialist too. And this did happen in the sixties, the worst decade in American history with regard to lasting damage to the nation.

Okay, so maybe this shouldn't be surprising. Heck with it, you get the idea.

Friday, August 03, 2007

i guess i'm building for the future now

Elton Brand just ruptured his Achilles tendon during practice. This wouldn't be news at all in my world, were it not for the extremely unfortunate fact that Mr. Brand happens to be a mainstay of my fantasy team. So now I'm looking at keeping a D-Wade returning from injury, a Brand out at least six months with an injury, and a wild card for the third keeper -- maybe Johnson, maybe Butler, maybe Odom, maybe a couple of those guys packaged for an elite keeper. But in any case, it's at least a 97% certainty that my fantasy basketball team is completely hosed for next year. At this point I'm debating whether or not to try to dangle my keepers as trade bait for a great young guy or even trade for the first pick in the upcoming draft (i.e., Greg Oden) once we figure out who has it...

...Which brings up another point. For me, my dilemma forces to the front and center some issues I don't remember ever getting resolved at the end of next season. Who actually has the first pick of the draft? Will we have an IR on which we can put players with long-term injuries? Will we have some sort of "advanced rights" on a player which we can use to draft a promising young guy in the lower rounds and then stash him in reserve for future years? (For example, we'd have to declare him ineligible for the entire year and then decide what to do with him the next summer -- maybe we could have one or two keeper positions of this sort so we could have some rookies under wraps to bring onto our teams or replace with a different rookie at the start of each season.) I sense that some discussion is needed here. What was a hurry-up-and-wait sort of offseason for me just got really freakin' dicey and I now need to decide what to do with a team in limbo. Might need to rile up the other fellas soon...

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Geez, Blogger really sucks these days. Those jackarses at google need to just give up and quit stealing their employer's money.

...and I can't even see this post. What an absolute crock of complete bullbleep. Die, Google.

social autism test

Yeah, yet another weird and likely useless psych test. But this one's more than just a personality thing. Anyway, I found the link to
this test on Vox's site. It's a (very informal) test to determine "AQ", which is an indicator for Asperger's Syndrome, or social autism. So...
The test assesses five different areas. Autistic-like responses will show poor social skill, attention switching, communication and imagination, and an exaggerated attention to detail. In other words, geekiness. You scored 31. The ranking below provides some idea of where that AQ fits in.
According to the test page, average scores are 18 for men, 21 for computer scientists, and 24 for math contest winners. A score of 32 is "generally taken to indicate Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism" and scores of 34 or higher indicate an "extreme" AQ. The max is 50.

So I scored as high as possible without falling into the group that actually has whatever that disorder is. In other words, I'm nerdy, crappy at social stuff, and have an obsessive attention to detail, but just barely not enough to be diagnosed with something for it. Okay...that could be the most unenlightening and predictable test I've ever taken.