Thursday, April 26, 2007

Days like this (paca)

What a week so far.

The basic fact is that I am woefully behind in my one major class - eyetracking. We only have one task for this class, and that's to present the findings of our pilot experiment on May 10th. Have I started my data analysis yet? No. Have I run my subjects yet? No. Do I have my experiment up and running in the software yet? No. Do I have all my stimuli created yet? No.

But, paca, this is your major class, so you've been working on it frantically, right?

No. Because on May 1, I'm supposed to get proofs of the journal articles all to the web mistress for conversion for publication on May 1. So I stayed in my office Sunday, Monday night, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night copy editing and copy editing. In the last four days I've edited about 50,000 words of academic prose. For perspective, 50,000 words is considered a short novel. About another 25,000 are still waiting my attention.

But finally as of 12:30 AM tonight, I've caught up enough in the journal so that I can switch finally back to the experiment.

I'm in one of those states where I really don't know how I'm going to get everything done, so you just keep working as much as you can each day, and then hopefully it all comes out.

In such a mood, I was riding my bike home tonight at 1:00 AM and right as I hit the bridge into Waikiki, the bottom falls out and I get so soaked my clothes weigh more than me. That set of clothes is now hanging out on various chairs and such.

But this isn't just a rant about being over-worked, as some good things are happening as well.

1) I got my working paper back from a reader and all she had were a few typos. Other than spewing praise, that's about as good as it gets. If the other reader also passes it, then that major program requirement is almost done.

2)I turned in late last week a possible dissertation plan to a prof and we are trying to schedule a meeting to see if it's a good topic.

3) Today, I asked the ICS prof I've been hanging out with if she'd still be willing to be an outside member on my committee, and she said yes. Moreover, I happened to mention that my big problem right now is that I don't have a committee chair and what my possible topic was, and she gets all excited and insisted I go find out if someone in another department can be a chair for me, because she'd love to be my adviser since my topic is so amazing. This is the prof where I wrote last September about how she'd put the smackdown on me.

4) At 11:30 tomorrow, ok today, I meet with another prof to find out about teaching or assisting her in teaching a phonetics class. My ideal fall semester is that I teach, edit, and work on my dissertation and comprehensive exams. oh, and maybe Korean. We'll see.

In short, if things go well, in three weeks I could either finally have a chair, a dissertation topic, a reading list for comps, a new issue of my journal, a teaching job for the fall, and a nice little pilot experiment under my belt. That's freaking forward motion.

Or... I could have no chair, no idea yet on the dissertation, a late publication of the journal, no teaching job, and an Incomplete in the class for not getting the experiment done.

I will let you all know how it comes out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Happy ever after (paca)

There was a discussion over at Romancing the Blog, which is a blog with contributions by romance authors, agents, and academics, about the Happily Ever After ending in romance novels. Can things ever really be happily ever after when the world is impermanent and all things end? This supposed ever after is no longer than an infinitely small moment in the great scheme of things, and so does it all become nothing?

I had a comment which I thought worth preserving, and so I've copied it here:
I can’t add much to the discussion of the structure of romance novels, but I did have immediate thoughts about the identification of permanence with being meaningful — along the lines of Charlene Teglia’s comment. Basically, who decided that only things without end are of value? If it is contingent, then it is nothing. Says who?

One answer is, as always in the Western tradition, Plato. Plato frequently identified permanence with meaning. But even he was not consistent on the matter, and he was always in “combat” with another tradition of his own culture, namely Herodotus who “never stepped in the same river twice”. However, Plato’s notion continues within us to this very day, and it can be seen in some Christian theology where only what is eternal has true worth. But even here, it isn’t exactly clear what eternal means. Does it mean going on and on in time forever? Or is immortality and immortal happiness (and God) somehow outside of time?

Most people know about the Japanese art of flower arranging, which is considered high art in Japan and not “merely” a craft. Part of the value of this art comes precisely from its impermanence. I also recently discovered another form of Japanese art which I do not know the name of. However, the artist had a sort of black picture frame with a backboard - like a thin tray or box. Inside it was a white powder that looked like sugar or salt. She then shaped the particles carefully with a file into mountains and rivers and people and all sorts of things. But one little bump and the art is gone. It’s just sugar on a piece of wood.

One reaction to this art might be: What a waste of time. She’s creating art that - until cameras - no one would ever see for very long. A wind comes through and all her time creating is wasted. She should be spending her time painting or doing sculpture that can last for a few hundred years. Another reaction might be: Wow! I was so amazingly lucky that I got to be here for this brief time with her and see this work she has created. Only a few will ever see it, but I had that chance.

Maybe romance HEA is more like the latter. One day the universe will either collapse or darken to a lifeless shell, but right now I got to be in love with him, and that is an experience that can never be taken away from me - ever.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In Cambodia Again (Llama)

Hi guys,

Just touching base. I'm in Cambodia again. I came over Sunday night and will leave Friday night. And now it's 6:21, I've finished my daytime work and it's time to head back to the hotel for another session of coding. Last night I stayed up till midnight... ah, I'm such a giver. Hopefully tonight will go faster. At least my hotel serves fantastic food and decent wine.



Lamest phishing attempt ever (paca)

As you all know, phishing (is that the right spelling or am I confusing an internet scam with a widely touring jam band cum Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor?) is when you get a fake email from a reputable seeming company who need you to verify some security info, which is then stolen and used to buy... tickets to Phish concerts and a lot of ice cream, I assume. That's right, isn't it? Anyway, the email was normal and competent, but then the email link (I just viewed it in my browser bar; I didn't click on it) was to an address like:


Yeah. That's likely to be the web address for a major corporation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

For the record, Orajel equals Useless

I have some rather nasty dental pain right now. The thing is that it's 95% certain to be my wisdom teeth causing it. The source of the pain is the far top right, and I can literally feel my wisdom tooth jabbing in kind of sideways right against the other teeth. So clearly, it's time for me to go into the dentist and have them schedule the appointment to have one or more of them extracted. The thing is I really don't want to be out of commission right now for 2-3 days having that done. I just want to get through the semester and then they can rip away at me. The semester's only a couple weeks more.

So today I bought some Orajel swabs that are supposed to handle toothaches. I swabbed away and, well, it tasted bad and made my cheek and gum feel all warm and tingly and a little numb. And my tooth went right on aching through the whole thing. Moreover, it's only been about 30 minutes and even the tingly cheek is going away.

So, I declare, that at least for this sort of toothache, Orajel is useless. I just took some Advil and we will see if it does any better.

Of course, I could use this as an excuse to not finish my school work and take incompletes in everything.... as if I really want to drag the course work out even longer. The only thing better than 15 weeks of probability is 17 weeks of it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jobs I never want to have (paca)

About a week ago, I was sitting in a restaurant on campus and on TV there was a program about celebrity body parts. No, not celebrities, just their body parts. Who has the ugly feet? Who's chin is too big? Who's nose is crooked?

At the time I thought it was hard to stoop lower to make a buck than to find myself on TV making fun of people's body parts, especially those they have no control over.

However, on the way in to the office today, I found an even worse way to make some money. I was listening to the radio version of Headline News, which appears to be a direct TV feed, and the inimitable Nancy Grace came on. I've only seen her on TV once where she was yelling at one of the doctors in the Terry Schiavo case that you wouldn't treat a dog like this. Ah, journalism. This time, she was talking about the Virginia Tech murders and playing tapes of officials investigating possible copycats. The Nancy Grace show, of course, treated this issue seriously and carefully, correct? No, they played the tapes over incidental music from action movies. I kid you not. Over the tape of a law enforcement official discussing looking for someone claiming to have an AK47, they were playing loud music that sounded like it came from Lethal Weapon 4 or Demolition Man. Because there's no way to help discourage copycatters than to make their actions seem like a shootem up movie.

It made me mad just to report this, much less listen to it a couple hours ago. But I'm sure it will help her ratings. It's so much more exciting this way!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cause this is thriller - woohooo- thriller night (paca)

And no one's gonna save you from the... bee with the boiling eyes?

I don't think that's right.

A story idea I've had in my mind for a while is a suspense thing where a parent goes to their day care at the end of the day and the child isn't there. Everyone there insists that the child was never dropped off in the morning. Multiple people corroborate. There's no record in the sign-in sheets of a drop off. But the parent distinctly remembers doing so.

I've never decided which is a better story - if they are lying or if he is wrong. I know it's only interesting if the reader doesn't know either.

In other cool news, I wrote to two profs today to see if I could assist teach or teach next fall, and both replied with interest. I, also, just sent a pre-pre-pre-pre dissertation proposal to a prof to take a look at. I've been going back and forth between a project that involved intonation in extended speech and a new one that involves learning artificial grammars by both Korean and English speakers. Which I decide on determines who my committee chair is, or vice versa, and then everything else can finally start moving again from that moment. Very exciting day in the life of paca.

And in the "I've never been so happy to get a C" category, I got my probablity test back on Wednesday. Big old C. I was ecstatic. There was a real chance I was going to fail the thing. I very wisely enrolled in this course for credit no credit, which means that a C- to A+ all comes out the same. The last time I got a C in a class was Fall, 1990 - when I was in my last math class. (It of course helps that I didn't get any grades from 1996 until 2004, instead having this thing called a "job".) I get math, but I get it slowly and in starts and fits. Court will perhaps be happy to hear this, so that we can bust the straight-A big brother illusion. I only got my C because everyone else in the class is equally lame so that 30 points out of 50 somehow makes a C. I might be getting a C in probability theory, but I do know math well enough to know the scale is being warped. Fortunately for me. But I might be in trouble next week, because we are moving from discrete probability distributions to continuous probability distributions to finish the semeser, including the dreaded and ubiquitous "normal" or "Gaussian" distribution. Why is this bad? Because discrete distributions are handled with sums. Even I can add. Continuous distributions involve integrals and derivatives. When was the last time I performed an integration of anything? Fall of 1990.

Whenever I finally get a dissertation proposal done, I get to stop taking classes again. That will be pleasant.

The New Presidency (paca)

A few days ago I wrote about Presidential candidate Bill Richardson who has super credentials but no name recognition. I haven't ever seen him speak, so I can't talk about his charisma, but he obviously doesn't light people on fire like Barack Obama does. Due to this, I am guessing that he's angling for a Vice-Presidency spot on the ticket as the most likely scenario. And then I thought how he could make a very nice team with Obama. Obama is supposed to be the vision guy, the persuader, the inspiring one, the character guy. Richardson would then be there as the worldly guy.

This then made me think how similar such a ticket is in concept to the Bush / Cheney idea. In 2000, Bush had been a relatively successful governor of Texas, so he had some noteworthy experience, but really he was running as "the compassionate conservative". He would stand for mainstream Republican-ish values - conservative, but not too much so. Whether or not that's what we got, you can all go off on in the comments, but that's what was being sold. Bush would bring general character qualities that were desirable, and then he'd surround himself with the experienced people. People who had already held major offices in the past and knew national and international things. Cheney of course was a big one. It's certainly not like Cheney is charismatic at all; he was the knowledge guy to complement Bush's weaknesses.*

And that's essentially the vision I was having for my Obama / Richardson team. Obama is vision and character; Richardson is knowledge and experience. A team just like Bush and Cheney.

What's interesting about this to me is that this really is a very different model of how the White House operated historically. Until Bush / Cheney, VPs more often than not represented the President's views and would be given a couple major tasks to go off and work on. Whenever you read accounts of the current administration's procedures though, the Vice President's office is involved over and over and over. They are there in the thick of things as much as any cabinet secretary and perhaps even more, since a Cabinet post has relatively defined areas of concern, while the VP is weighing in on military strategy to diplomacy to stem cells to....

No matter what the failings of the current administration, I wonder if this idea of a true Pres / VP team is going to be a lasting legacy. And no matter how often I disagree with Bush and Cheney, it's not clear that the team method itself is all that bad.

*Bush as the character guy and Cheney as the experience guy does seem to be what we in fact got. The main trouble is that Bush' character has some significant flaws - loyalty and dogged determinedness above, well, everything. Also, it appears that Cheney often gives really bad advice despite his experience. However, I have a feeling Bush never comes up with the plan. He decides on the plans that Cheney or others offer to him as possibilities. I take that back. I think Bush knows politics and campaigning and probably originates some ideas there.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

B stuff (paca)

Woo-hoo, a llama post! (See below.) Unfortunately, his post has like serious content and all that requires thought, and I'm not up to that a this moment, so I'm going to post some random things about B who is 4.

1) I bought these red plastic chopsticks for B over Christmas. They are training chopsticks (kuaizi in Mandarin) in that they are attached at the back. They are more accurately described as tongs really, but they have the chopstick shape and size at the ends. Anyway, he's doing decently with him and managed to eat an entire bowl of popcorn with them a couple nights ago, picking up each piece of popcorn one at a time.

2) A typical conversation with B:
B is on the back of the bike with Paca pedaling, and we are waiting at a red light.

Paca: What did you do at school today? Did you play with Jun-Hyung?
B: Yeah.
Paca: Did you eat spaghetti?
B: Yeah.
Paca: Did you strangle the iguana?
B: Yeah.

3) I'm constantly struck by how healthy children develop at different rates. I was reminded recently of a conversation I had a few months ago at a playground with a mother of a little girl. B was up on the "structure" with a bridge and a slide and such, running around. The structure also has these bars you can climb to get up to the top. B climbs them, but he likes to go super slow and he likes for me to "hold his shirt" when he goes. The little girl was also there, but she just flies up and down these things with complete confidence. Paca parent thinks,"well, he's behind her in development apparently." But at some point the mother asks me if he's feeding himself yet. And, in context, the implication was clearly that her daughter wasn't. I tried hard not to bug my eyes out. He'd been feeding himself since 18 months.

The point is just that children seem to develop different skills at different times. And of course the skill has a lot to do with what one particular set of parents demands. Not always, but often.

And that's all I got.


What's wrong with the Supreme Court's ruling (or, I Hate Babies) (LLama)

Paca says he's going to relocate since he's been the sole contributor to this blog. I don't want that to happen... even though I really haven't posted at all for about a year, I like the idea of having this spot. It's kind of a home... I may not be here, but I like the idea of here. So, in an effort to stave off Paca's move, I'll try to, you know, actually write something.

I think part of the reason I haven't is because much of what I would write about is political in nature. And I've come to believe, contrary to previously held opinions, that talking about politics ultimately just makes some people uncomfortable and/or agry, and doesn't really accomplish much. So why bother? Instead I try to live in and control my little section of the universe. I can't do anything about the War in Iraq, but I can give a little time and a few baht to some of the poor in my neighborhood.

However, since politics is what gets my juices flowing, I will, in fact, write a bit about it. Namely, today, the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a ban on "partial birth abortions".

One of the more superficial motivations behind this ban is the "heinous" nature of the procedure, in which a fetus is partially removed from the vagina, a hole drilled in it's skull and it's brains sucked out. This is apparently worse than the other common late-term abortion method, in which doctors "dismember" the fetus while still in the womb, and then suck it out.

But what struck me is a couple of quotes from the majority opinion. The law that the justices upheld does not make an exception for the "health" of the mother. From the NY Times: "Justice Kennedy, in addressing the need for the health exception, said on Wednesday that it was acceptable for Congress not to include one because there was 'medical uncertainty' over whether the banned procedure was ever necessary for the sake of a woman’s health. He said that pregnant women or their doctors could assert an individual need for a health exception by going to court to challenge the law as it applied to them."

So, this means that anytime a doctor believes that this type of procedure is necessary in order to preserve the woman's health, they must first go to court to win permission. Does this seem at all practical or efficient? Does it make any sense at all for the courts to be involved in medical decisions? Isn't this basically the courts saying to doctors "we don't trust you to make the correct medical decisions in cases like this, so you have to run everything by us first."?

But apart from the medical inefficiency introduced by of this ruling, I am primarily opposed to it because it is an example of the government instituting a level of control over individuals to which I believe it has no right.

I've recently experienced a shift of attitude toward government... I've become a bit more libertarian, to put a label on it. Partly it's because of experience here in Thailand... during the fall of the Thaksin government... which started about 2 years ago and continued till the coup, there was effectively no national government. You know what? Society moved along just fine. Life on the streets was completely unchanged. I've also been reading some political books by Chomsky. He paints government, even a democratic one, not as a benevolent protector of it's citizens, but as a power structure designed exclusively to benefit the ruling class and subjugate people. I won't go into all here, but, from that point of view, Justice Kennedy's statement here is disturbing:

“It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form.”

Kennedy is saying, basically, that he knows best. That, regardless of what a mother may think she thinks, if she were as wise and compassionate as Kennedy, she would realize that she really doesn't want to have the procedure. So Kennedy is looking out for her imagined future emotional well being. But if her real present physical well being is actually in jeopardy she must first go to court to win permission.

This is not about anything other than weakening, and eventually overturning, a woman's right to an abortion due to Kennedy's, Scalia's, Alito's, Robert's and Thomas' political disagreement with previous court decisions. They think that human life begins before birth, that therefor abortion is murder, and therefor we as a society should protect it. Scalia and Thomas all but say so in a separately filed statement. That is the real reason for this ruling, regardless of Kennedy's attempt to cloth it in typical liberal government-will-take-care-of-you sentiment. They, and all who support anti-abortion laws, are looking to control what a woman does with her own body.

"Her body, her choice." A cliche? Yes, but since her choice does not negatively impact me, you, Scalia, or society at all, the government has no authority to pass laws limiting it's practice. You can make the argument that her choice impacts the fetus, and that therefor it should be protected. But that fetus is not part of society. It doesn't pay taxes, vote, consume resources, or contribute in anyway. It is totally removed from society. If you were to remove it from the mother's womb, it would die without intense medical care It is totally dependent upon the mother. She in reality has total control over the life of that baby. Any legislation that is passed is just an attempt to assert an artificial right of others.

I don't know when life begins. There probably isn't a single point. What defines human life anyway? Consciousness? What is consciousness? Do you remember anything from your childhood before you were, say, 3 or 4 years old? Does that mean you weren't conscious during that time? I do know that if we all followed the Catholic example, out-lawing all abortion and forbidding contraceptives, we'd have millions more unwed mothers (another bane of the far right), teen mothers, and an exploding population that would exacerbate all of the resource problems we are already experiencing (fuel consumption, water pollution/depletion, famine, poverty, crime,species extinction...).

For centuries, life has begun at birth. Just because we can look at every fetus and see the life it has the potential to lead, doesn't mean it is in our rights, or even our best interest, to see that potential realized.


I should be a priest (paca)

I used to think about becoming a clergyman. No, really. I had to give up the idea when I realized that I just don't believe in God. I don't think I can conduct service and not have an opinion on whether or not Jesus was the Son of God or just a really wise man. It's not as if it would be okay to say, "Let's all bow our heads in prayer, even though there's no real point, because it's not like anyone's listening." (I'm being facetious because it makes me smile. My thoughts on God and prayer and sin are far more complicated.)

However, they just did a survey of job satisfaction, and by far the leader of satisfied people is the clergy. A full 87%. Being a waiter, however, is really really lame, apparently. Here's the survey. I was a waiter once - Shoney's and a local pizza place - Victor's Ristorante. It was kind of lame.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quick Hits 37 (paca)

1) One magic trick that became the most disappointing when I learned how it was done was a David Blaine magic trick from a TV special a few years back. This was when he still did magic tricks instead of hung himself in ice blocks and whatever else he's up to nowadays. The trick as it was in the special was the simplest imaginable. He'd walk up to a stranger and then have them pick a number from 1 to 100. Then he'd guess, and wow! he seemed to get it right! It was really very cool. But supposedly there are two steps to performing the trick: a) people apparently just like to choose the number 37 a lot. I do this myself. And so the magician knows to guess 37, and he's right more than 1 in 100 times. The annoying part is b) because it's on TV, you just edit out all the misses. Part b) is what's so disappointing about it.

2) I'm 95% sure I'm going to head back over to my own pacatrue blog again. This blog has been almost entirely my contributions for a long time, and I might just as well admit it. I will yell when or if I make this step.

3) Many of you probably already know about the Salon Blogging the Bible blog. I've never read it myself, but I like the idea. The author is just reading the Bible and giving his thoughts as he goes. I am seriously thinking about Blogging C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. I've read it several times and it seems worthwhile to do. I'm also thinking of it as something of a writing exercise. First, my plan is to write it as a public blog. This blog started just as a way to keep my family and friends up to date on my life. It's modified from that somewhat. My mother and sister are indeed regular readers, but most of you are either the llama's friends or increasingly people I've met through writing blogs. Regardless, however, it remains idiosyncratic, and its purpose is simply to talk about my life with people who are interested. The Mere Christianity blog would be written for the public at large and would only be about that book. The other part of the writing exercise is to see if I can develop a moderately engaging essay style. I write serious things periodically, and I write comic things perioidically. Can I combine the two, so that thoughts about the Trinity can make you chuckle? I don't know, but I might see if I can do it.

4) A couple thoughts about the whole radio host Don Imus being fired for calling the Rutger's women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos". I am not wise enough to know what the just fall-out was. Perhaps firing was exactly right, perhaps too much. The political conversation has turned lately however to be about why Imus would be fired for calling people hos when it's all over commercial radio, specifically with a lot of rap music. So the thoughts: 1) Just because someone else is also acting like a jerk, it doesn't give you a pass. If Jack is beating up on his little brother and his mother gets mad at him for it, it doesn't make it OK if Jack just yells, "But George was hitting him just this morning too!" If the mother always punishes Jack and never George then it might make the mother unjust or hypocritical, but it doesn't lessen Jack's sin. b) This is the more interesting one to me. Yes, yes, yes Don Imus should be held to a higher standard than rap musicians. Don Imus is in a different game than a comedian or a musician. Yes, comedians and musicians and artists can have political and social influence, but it is nothing like the Imus radio show, which is specifically about politics and society and what's right and wrong. He is not some guy just trying to make a hit record. When the Vice President of the United States wants to get his message out about Iran, he doesn't go and make a record with Ludacris or 50 cent. He goes on the Imus show. Imus cannot be expected to be taken seriously as a news source for millions of people and then not be expected to behave better than a guy making a hip-hop album. There is nothing inconsistent in holding people who help form the opinions of many of those in power, from local grass roots activists to congressmen to the vice-president of the U.S., to higher standards than we hold a comedian who comes on HBO at midnight. This is NOT to say that perhaps we shouldn't be holding musicians and comedians to higher standards over all. If we hold saints to a level 10, then maybe we think Imus is a 5, and musicans should be a 4, not the current 2. But the standards are and should be different. Imus has chosen to be a political entertainer, and therefore he should be held to higher political standards. A final caveat. None of this means that Imus or anyone else should be censored by the government, which is a violation of freedom of speech right. But the constitutional protection of free speech does not prevent customers and advertizers from getting upset, or the speaker suffering private consequences for that speech.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The king of random (paca)

One of my great tasks over the next four weeks is designing and running an experiment for a seminar I'm taking. One of the things you have to do when doing such tasks is randomize all your stimuli so that 1) it's harder for the participants to figure out what you are testing, and 2) to increase the chances that you are not testing some other factor that just happens to occur in the way your stimuli are ordered.

So I just randomized list after list for about seven hours straight. I randomized the order of the critical stimuli; I randomized the order of the fillers; I rotated the criticals through conditions; I randomized the complete list of items; I randomized which word of my pair comes first; I randomized which of four quadrants I assigned letters to; and then I even randomized where in my visual display a full 208 pictures will appear.

So if you want to be random in the next few days, give me a yell. I'll match your randomness and raise you 3 conditions.

Or technically, I'll pseudo-randomize you.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bill Richardson (paca)

As most people can guess from my blogging, I typically vote Democratic. Every once in a while I'd vote Republican, mostly in local races, but Democrat was and is the default position. (Though I've been planning to write a "am I a closet Republican?" post that I haven't gotten to yet.)

Anyway, I've been vaguely weighing the Democratic presidential candidates, but I haven't reached a conclusion yet. One person who used to be way in the back of my mind is Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. But, while all the other candidates are largely just campaigning, Gov. Richardson just left North Korea where he's been negotiating the shut down of the nuclear reactors. That gets my attention. And so, I did a tiny bit of reading about him today. I've always known that he is the candidate with the most national experience, but I never knew exactly what it was. Before I spill the beans, though, let's list some of the biggest issues facing the U.S. today.

1) EFFECTIVELY using diplomacy to lessen tensions in the world, particularly with Iran and North Korea.
2) Finding a political solution to Iraq's issues as that's the only thing that can be permanent. Even if our military surge worked perfectly (and I so wish it was), we have to leave one day.
3) The U.S.'s use of energy, both to lessen our dependence on foreign oil and to lessen our impact on the environment.
4) Immigration. What to do with the 11-20 million illegal immigrants who are here and how to change our immigration policy to be more in line with market demand.
5) The debt that the federal govt is passing on to our children.

There are others, of course, but these have to be top 10 at least.

Now, let's match them to Richardson's resume.

1) He's a solid enough diplomat that, even while a Democratic governor and presidential candidate, he's been sent to Sudan and North Korea, even at the request of Bush and Rice.
2) He was previously Ambassador to the U.N. He spent some years precisely trying to negotiate political settlements.
3) He was formerly energy secretary, so he certainly know the issues involved with this.
4) He's the governor of New Mexico, and so has had to work on immigration issues daily. Moreover, he's a child of an American father and Mexican mother, born in California, spent a childhood in Mexico City, before moving back to the U.S. for high school.
5) New Mexico is currently running a balanced budget, even with increased education spending and a cut in taxes.

My vote's not settled yet, but Richardson just moved into my top two for now.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Duke University case (paca)

As many of you are likely already aware, the rape charges against three Duke University lacrosse players were dropped today after the case against them fell apart. Here's the AP run down. The three were accused of gang-raping a stripper at a party of some sort. It certainly seems that there is no case anymore against the three as there were no DNA matches and many inconsistent stories, supposedly from the victim herself as well. However, read this sentence about there being no DNA matches:

"He [the prosecutor] was also accused of withholding the results of lab tests that found DNA from several men — none of them lacrosse team members — on the accuser's underwear and body."

So, I get that the accused lacrosse players are innocent from this. But, is the case of sexual assault over, because the woman is covered in the "DNA" of several men? Now, I admit I've never been to a strip club or even to a party in which a stripper was hired. As a senior in high school, my friends and I were going to hire a singing telegram French Maid for our friend's eighteenth, but we got a singing Kermit the Frog instead. So, therefore, I have no idea what happens when a stripper comes to a party to dance, but I always assumed that it was largely stripping, i.e., a woman taking her clothes off and dancing, maybe rubbing against the guys, provocatively. Lap dance sort of stuff. How then does she get covered in DNA by a whole bunch of men? Is that the typical behavior? I am well aware that prostitution often happens under the table with escorts and stripping, but this seems different than that.

It sure sounds like - at best - the party went in a direction that the woman had not anticipated and made her feel out of control of the situation and assaulted. The accuser has said now she's not certain there was penetration, but even if correct, it sure sounds like there was still sexual assault, albeit by some other unknown men.

The next question then is in a world where the NFL suspends player 'Pacman' Jones for getting in bar fights over and over (and I think appropriately), are there any expectations of what sorts of parties college players attend as they represent their school?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

EE Festival (paca)

I've been waiting for this query at EE for a while, because I wanted to see if I could come up with all the Guess the Plots for a query by myself. It looks like I managed to get all but one of the fakes. The task was to come up with fake and silly plots to go with the title Reign of Seoul. That's all we had to work with. I had a feeling most of the other minions would have problem with Seoul-themed things, so I spent 45 minutes coming up with anything I could to fit the theme. Anyway, here are my fake plots:

1. Three generations of Korean women hand-wrap dumplings as an extended metaphor for life's journey; i.e., it's monotonous, never-ending, and you could have just bought them frozen at the store.

2. Jody travels to Seoul for the 2006 World Cup and encounters an intergalactic plot to mutate the fans into flesh-eating half-dead slaves of the Gorgulls. At least it's not as frightening as a football match in Manchester.

3. Celebrity Nawlins chef Jackie Dupres drops étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya from the menu and switches to all kimchee. Soon they're drinking the fermented chili-coated veggies in Peoria.

4. Captivated by both the Korean Wave and American music, Japanese tour guide Yuki gets two wishes: to move to Korea and to sing like Aretha Franklin.

I think number one is my favorite. It's a bad Korean Amy Tan novel.

In other EE news, I've had a few New Beginning continuations and Next Line continuations. In the new beginnings, you continue the opening 150 words of a novel or story. In the Next Line, you have 2-3 sentences to do something silly with a dialogue continuation.

Football one
Dear Prudence
Gabe and Mike
Church trends
F-ing boat
Dark with goo

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I knew it was their fault all along (paca)

Vindication! Yes, all right thinking people knew it all along. My family was the innocent one and the McCoys were all craaaazy. But now we have proof. Proof, I tell you! Apparently doctors have been tracing a genetic syndrome in the McCoy family line for many years which can cause pounding headaches, high adrenaline, and bad temper.

Notice that it's the McCoys who have this syndrome. Not my family.

The McCoys are a bunch of unreasonable maniacs, clearly. And we are innocent and simply reacting to provocation. OK, maybe we reacted to provocation with shot guns and shootouts, but you know they started it! So, we win.

Ah, the sweet smell of revenge - in a Yahoo AP slice of life article kind of way.

Only once in my life, despite hearing jokes since I was 6, have I ever met a McCoy. The llama and I were in a bowling alley, I believe, and the person ahead of me was named McCoy. I don't remember how, but the McCoy should have heard my last name. And so, being me, I said something like, "So we meet at last" or "Finally, in the end, it comes to this." He didn't chuckle; he didn't have a witty retort; he didn't even smile; he didn't even challenge me to a bowling round. No, he just walked away without a word.

That's the kind of McCoy behavior which begets fightin'. Where's my shotgun? I done been provoked!

Disclaimers (to be read really fast): Despite sharing a name with the famous feud, my grandmother has traced my family back past the Civil War in Mississippi and so we have no actual relationship to the Feud. Also, I am being completely tongue in cheek in the above. Having a disease which causes high blood pressure and can kill eventually is in real life quite serious and I hope that good medical care is provided to all with such a disease. I would happily sit around a campfire with my McCoy brethren and roast marshmallows and sing Kum-ba-yah. Or a better song. But only after you've all been searched for weapons, because I don't trust ya one lick.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Google image search is killing me (paca)

Long time readers may remember that I conducted a hottie challenge a few months back. Based on a straight guy on another blog admitting that even he found George Clooney hot in this one pic, I challenged people to send in pictures of beautiful women, the purpose of which was to find one that even straight women would have to admit was hot. Just a whim. And even those one regular reader specifically encouraged her spouse to participate, naturally, the only people who submitted pictures were my family members. Before I continue, I must say something:


All done. Anyway, we had submitted pictures of Sophia Loren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angeline Jolie, and Laetitia Casta.

Well, apparenty, Google Image has picked those up and I'm now getting hammered with people searching on images of Laetitia Casta and Zeta-Jones. It started yesterday and my normal 20 hits a day has jumped to 60 something yesterday and close to 80 today.

The searchers must be really annoyed, though, because it links to the archive for that month and the top entry is my pictures of Halloween at my son's day care.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing (paca)

I did a vanity google on myself today for a break, because how better to spend 20 minutes than focusing on yourself. My name is relatively rare and so my real web page is number one in the Google rankings. It's easy to find me. And then some third of the search results are me as well. You can learn about a volunteer award I won in 2001, a frisbee league that I was once part of, several links to me as part of my journal, an exercise debate I was having once after finishing the marathon, even some old letters and messages I once sent a message to.

But there's also a lot of links which very well could be me, but are not. The most important of which is that I apparently died on January 7th of this year at St. Mary's Hospital. I'm also in high school, do a lot of geneology, was once part of an endocrinology list, and more. The point is just that if you google someone, it's not always clear that you are really getting information about that person. You'd really have to think about timelines and such to figure out that some of these things are not me - and that some are.

For instance, without the last few blog entries, maybe I have died. (OK, I read the obit. Apparently, I share a family name with my grandmother and my grandfather is the one who actually died.)

I see a short story in this. You google yourself to find out that you are dead. Hilarity and pathos ensue.

Oh, and apparetly California Beach Bunny's friend Sam likes me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

GO BIG PACA (paca)

On the bike ride home today, I was teaching B the stadium sports song.

Dum dum dum daaa da
dum dum dum daaa da
dum dum dum daaa da
Go Big Red!

Repeat ad nauseam.

My high school (read more about it here if you've been on the blog less than a year) was odd in that there was no actual mascot name for the teams. Some times we were the Lawrenceville Larries. I think X-country was sometimes the Harriers. The local newspaper just called us Lawrenceville Prep (to distinguish from the local high school). And so when we did that song, instead of saying


or whatever, we used the school colors of black and red.


Big Red may have been our name. (However, one of our competitors was from Quaker-heritage eastern Pennsylvania, the Newtown Friends. Oooh, scary! The Friends are going to crush us! So maybe Big Red is just as well. I just went to our school site and I can't find our team name anywhere still.)

Anyway, so with B on the back of the bike I turned around and went


And B responds


Go big sushi?

That's the first thing that pops into your head? He may or may not have had sushi for lunch at day care; it isn't clear. Still.

So now that's the new song

Dum dum dum daaa da
Dum dum dum daaa da
Dum dum dum daaa da

A funny note on sushi. N is not a fan of it, which is not a big surprise for an American who didn't grow up eating it. One thinks in response, "she doesn't like raw fish, of course." However, she actually eats Hawaiian poke, which is just a flavored pile of raw fish - ahi tuna is most popular, but any fish that's safe raw can be a poke. There's tako or octopus poke, too. No, for sushi, N doesn't like the rice.

The rice?! We eat rice at home all the time. But I read the label for some sushi once and it really is different rice. It's a vinegar rice. So there you go.


We are the champions, my friend! (paca)

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had joined my first ever NCAA basketball bracket. Somehow, I just won. (My mother and sister who read the blog are now saying "old lucky paca!")

With the victory of Florida tonight, I leapt into 1st place from back in the middle of the pack. I won pretty much because of Florida and only because of Florida. I earned 112 points total, and I believe that 63 of them came purely from Florida victories. I was lucky in that only one other chose Florida as the winner.

Go me!

And a big thank you to J for organizing it! And I would be saying that even had I not won.

But I'm especially saying it because I did win.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The strawberry pie

First up, I went blogger crazy over the last 4 days, so scroll down. I cover everything from animal cruelty to Japanese ska to cool parents to customer service rants to traffic annoyances. And in this post, I cover


I asked a couple weeks ago for a glaze for an open-face icebox strawberry pie. I finally got around to making the pie, but I had to use my old recipe. I had found a new one with a strawberry glaze, but I didn't prep for the glaze properly, and so I had to fall back on my old glaze, which is:

3/4 cup orange juice
1 cup granulated sugar, sugar mama (a John Lee Hooker allusion)
3 TBs of corn starch
1 TB of lemon juice.

You dump it all in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and it thickens up quickly. Without further ado, the pie:

OK, my crust is lame as I burned the outside some, but I know what you are thinking:

"Um, and where are the strawberries?"

Under the whipped cream of course. Those are pistachios on top. That's not part of th recipe. That's a whim.

Here is a slice of the pie in which you can see actual strawberriness hiding down there.

Sorry for the fuzziness. So here's how you make my stawberry pie.

1) Make the glaze per above and put in a bowl to cool.

2) Make the whipped cream
-1 cup heavy whipping cream
-1 TB confectioners sugar
-splash of vanilla; let's pretend it's 1 tsp.
Put it in a mixer and whip on high speed. You can do it by hand with a whisk if you have half an hour and need a workout.
I tried a shortcut once and used the whipped cream in the aerosol can. DO NOT DO THIS. The whipped cream after a few hours dissolves back into whatever weird state it's in inside the can before you shook it and sprayed it out. This will destroy the pie.

3) Bake a pie crust. Mine is store bought, but follow whatever crust directions please you. You will want to a) poke some holes in the crust before baking or b) weigh it down with baking beads, uncooked rice, uncooked beans, etc.

4) Let the crust cool and slice up what seems like the right amount of strawberries for a pie. I used a big bag of frozen ones here, but I think they are better for cooking and smoothies. For fresh pie like this, use fresh strawberries.

5) Lay the sliced strawberries in the pie crust. Cover them with the glaze, and then stick it in the fridge to cool.

6) When cool enough, spread the whipped cream on top. Store in fridge.

Obviously, whipped cream is optional, but why wouldn't you? The thing with the glaze is just to have it warm enough to spread but not hot anymore.

Teleology or instrumentalism or why sheep will one day rule(paca)

A sheep does come into this somewhere.

Where to start? First off, do people know about the sheep that are made of 15% human cells? If not, here's one article. They inject human cells into a sheep fetus and this causes human cells to grow as part of the sheep. The goal is to create a sheep with human organs, which could then be used to save human lives.

My feelings are mixed on this, but generally I'm not a fan. Why?

Because we are changing the very body, from the inside out, of another animal for our purposes. Let's ignore possible safety issues such as silent viruses, which are viruses that are harmless to animals, but could be spread to humans in which they not be harmless. Once you get over the squick factor, is there anything really wrong with this? After all, we eat animals. We grow them specifically so that we can slaughter and consume them, so why not also grow them in order to save human lives? There's no difference, right?

I think there is.

In theory, an animal that you are eating for food is an animal. It does things. It leads it sheep or cow life. And then one day, it gets killed. But up until that time, it was just a sheep being a sheep. But, in this case of the homosheepians, you aren't letting a sheep be a sheep and then slaughtering it. You are creating some animal that would never exist, and I can't imagine it would be the same as a real sheep. After all, a sheep's liver is different from a human liver for a biological reason. So the hybrid sheep isn't a sheep that you kill when you need it. Instead, it becomes a simple tool, a biological machine, that is created for you and dies for you. You are taking away its sheep-ness.

Of course, things are never so clear cut. For instance, farming is by definition taking an animal out of its environment and raising it for a purpose. Combine this with breeding, which is essentially a genetic selection process, along with the increased ability of scientists to change the genes of an animal directly, and is farming for food really all that different? It becomes a very shady line.

I agree these do become difficult decisions, but we are able to make some of them within reason. For instance, I'd rather eat a pig that walked around in a pen for its time on earth than one of these guys:

And here's the companion article (from a blog) that goes with it.

I was pretty affected by this picture. Enough so that I'm starting to learn about local producers of animals and whether or not there is such thing as free range pigs, etc. I think one of the reasons people react so negatively to treatment like this is not simply the possible physical pain caused by the confinement. I don't know if pain is caused. It's also that a pig which spends its entire life like this is no longer a pig. It isn't living a pig life at all. It's just a chunk of flesh waiting for us.

N was browsing through our Joy of Cooking yesterday and hit the game-cooking section with venison, quail, grouse, and even bear. We then got into discussing who we knew growing up that hunted and our venison consumption and all. As I was riding to school today, I decided that I'd rather eat venison, if I'm going to eat meat at all, than eat those poor pigs, even though deer are a lot cuter to me. After all, most deer are wild and the deer population is abundant in many places. We should all be eating game, as the deer got to be a deer.

OK, this next is going to be an odd transition, but it's the same moral issue to me. I'm one of those weird people who periodically has more moral worries about stem cell research than at least early term abortions. Why? Because with abortions, the fetus was not created to serve someone else. It was created either intentionally for itself or unintentionally. But it is not an instrument to aid us. And then, since a woman does get to control her own body, she gets to choose whether or not she wishes to keep the little human fetus inside of her or not. (I don't mean this is all an easy issue for me, or clear, but that's where I am right now.)

With embryonic stem cells, there's at least the possibility that you could be creating a human fetus, not just on accident or through disregard, but solely for the purpose of harvesting it. That troubles me. I did some Wikipedia reading and the fact that embryonic stem cells come from the blastopore, which is a small bundle of barely differentiated cells, helps me accept the research. It also helps that at the moment most stem cell lines are created from embryos resulting from fertilization treatments. But I have a feeling that this latter fact won't last if stem cells do pan out. If you can cure heart disease with stem cells, there will be a demand for millions of the things, which is going to create a demand to grow them specifically for this purpose. (This is of course utter speculation based on nothing.) I am not a big fan of test tubes of blastopores that are only there to have cells removed from them and discarded.

A final thought. You may have noticed that many of these issues revolve around using other living items - sheep and human fetuses - for the purpose of saving others. I guess I just don't feel that the virtue of helping a person with a sickness overrules all else. We can't re-engineer other living things just to add a little more time for us. But maybe I am wrong even on this. Perhaps when someone I love desperately needs an organ, I will forget all of my silly arguments here and strap the sheep embryo up myself. However, just as there is a reason that we don't let the families of murder victims decide the fate of the murderer alone, we may not want to let all questions of medical ethics be decided by those who would give up the world to save the one they love.

In short, purpose matters. Intentions matter. When we don't even allow a sheep to be a sheep or a human embryo to be an embryo, but instead reduce them to instruments for our benefit, we are walking on thin moral ice.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

If you like ska, you are almost certainly going to like these guys. I'm not a particular ska fan, but I like these guys. The first number is more of a classic jazz big band jump. The second two are more ska.

Actually, it looks like you will have to use this link to see the above.

Sometimes it's hard to be cool (paca)

Saturday was the Aloha Family Fun Fair (or something very close) on Magic Isle of the Ala Moana Beach Park. It's a regular old carnival to raise money for the park, and B, N, and I spent a couple hours there. We took B on three rides. B and I did the helicopters go up in the air in a circle ride, and then we did the mega slide in a burlap bag. N then handed me her stuff and took him on the merry go round.

While the ride was going on, the Hip Hop Horray Hoooo Haaayyy Hoooo tune by Naughty by Nature came on, and me being alive in the early 90s, started to do the haaayyyy hooooo, haaayyy hooooo arm wave in the air. Some 18 year old guy saw me and started cracking up.

What? I can't be cool anymore just because I was wearing a large red purse?

Look at that horse! (paca)

I tried to do the cool YouTube linking for this, but it never came through for some reason. Therefore, I'm just going to link to J's blog from which I got it. It's a 30 second YouTube clip for which you will need sound.

Look at that horse!