• About Me

    I’m an opinionated Grumpy Old Man. I enjoy the intellectual give and take that goes along with that, but have very little patience for stupid people (Note: there is a big difference between “stupid” and “educated”. Some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met have a PhD…). Beside arguing, I like to build things in almost any media. Right now I’m mostly building in wood, Lego, and a bunch of different electronic media. I teach in a number of different venues - from preschool all the way through graduate school. Subjects range from talmud to neuroscience to engineering.

    For fun, I like to bash people with swords (OK, so they’re made of foam. It’s still fun). Although I spend a lot of my time in a wheelchair, I manage to keep pretty active (Like bashing people with swords). I am a libertarian, and have a hard time finding anything good to say about government or politicians. OK, politicians might make good sausage, but that's about as good as it gets.

    Cope

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Veterans Day: Enough Sacharin Already!

Yep, Wednesday is Veteran’s Day. You can tell Veterans Day is coming because the editorials and “news” media are gushing with crappy, maudlin poetry and odes to remember our soldiers. How about some reality: To the vast majority of Americans, Veterans day is just another day off school or work.  If you go to church, shul, mosque, whatever, the service leader will probably make some sappy noises to “remember the soldiers”. Maybe we pay some lip service by reading one of those crappy poems or editorials, but probably not. If you’re REALLY motivated (meaning there is a veteran in your immediate family), you might go to a parade or a dinner.

Here’s an idea: instead of either ignoring the holiday or making some motions, how about doing something to remember the ideals that the soldiers are/were actually fighting for. Write you legislators about an issue you care about. Use the day make some sacrifices of your own, and go help out in a food pantry, visit the sick in a hospital, or visit a nursing home. Chances are good any one of those three activities will bring you into direct contact with a veteran. And it will actually mean something.

Our Veterans don’t need poems, sermons, or TV news people spouting crap about them, and little yellow ribbons are meaningless. We need the rest of the country to actually prove that he sacrifices that Veterans have, are, and will continue to make actually have a purpose. It doesn’t matter what your political views about the current or past wars are. Do something for the ideals that he soldiers stand for.

And while you’re at it, stop and think for a moment: in modern wars, more civilians and non-combatants are maimed and killed than military personnel. Remember the innocent bystanders as well.

What every kid needs: a visit to poverty.

Most of the kids I know (including mine) are spoiled rotten. Their concepts of “normal life” are insane. I spend a lot of time in elementary and middle schools, and a good bit of time dealing with high school and university students, and none of them have any idea what ‘normal’ life really is.

This is because they have all lived in the first world their entire life. This is not a bad thing. Personally, I rather appreciate the fact that my kids have never had to live in the third world. Lack of the amenities we all take for granted is a real drag. The problem I have is that the kids have no idea what the word “need” means – not just in a language sense, but in a sense of true survival. Kids “need” cell phones, video games, pizza, the latest fashion, braces for their teeth, conditioner for their hair, zit cream for their faces, and a school trip to some far-away place (usually in late middle school or high school).

I think the kids should be a whole lot better served if they skipped the Spanish club trip to Mexico or Spain or wherever, the Band trip to Disney, and class trip to DC. Instead, pack the kids onto a plane, and send them to Malawi, Nicaragua, The Comoros, or Congo. Let them spend a month in an environment where they can see how the vast majority of people in the world live. I’m not saying that they should necessarily LIVE the life, but be close enough to it to start to understand that the real definition of “need” is “If I don’t have this, I will suffer great physical harm, and might even die”.

By exposing the kids to true poverty – real poverty – they are forced to take a look at their own lives. I certainly don’t expect the kids to completely change their lifestyles, but by simply opening their eyes to how good they have it, we can help them put things into perspective. By opening our kids eyes, we can set the stage to begin to make a difference. don’t get me wrong: poverty will ALWAYS be there. All I want is for kids to recognize that its there, and to have some understanding of what it really means.

Sotomayor: why the minority card is a bad play

warning: majorly politically incorrect content. If you can’t deal, bugger off now.

I haven’t decided yet if I support her nomination or not, and I recognize that it doesn’t really matter. However, there are a few things that have been brought up (out of context or not, as a politician, they count) that deserve addressing.

The biggest is the whole idea of her statements that basically sum up to “I’m a minority, so I bring a minority point of view to my findings”. Couple of points:

  1. Duh. How stupid do you think people are? Of COURSE your upbringing affects your point of view.
  2. DOH! In some cases playing the “I’m a minority” card may make political sense, but be realistic: at the national level, you CAN’T expect your opponents to not use it against you. Major political blunder. (As Sotamayor admitted on tape after making one of the stupid statements.)
  3. Choosing to identify with a minority population, then playing on the differences is divisive, not unifying.

OK, so we all know that Sotamayor is a minority. The question is: why does it matter. Right now, Obama is making a huge effort on his world tour to downplay the differences between national cultures – in a large part in an attempt to undo the damage done by Bush’s “We’re Different, We’re better, Our way is the right way” approach. Personally, I think this is a good thing (Obama, not Bush). By focusing on common interests, we set the stage for cooperation and can set aside our differences (at least for now). This is the real problem that I have with Sotamayor. Instead of taking the approach of “I’m a bit different, but it doesn’t really matter, we’re mostly the same”, her rhetoric seems to be “I’m different, and that difference makes me better”. This is a kickback to the Bush approach, and I find it concerning.

I will be the first to admit that her opponents have done their best to play these statements up, and play them out of context – with a good degree of success. Despite that, the fact that she has even voiced these opinions indicates that there is SOME basis for their running them up the flagpole. Much as I despise Rush Limbaugh, I have to agree with his observation that if a white guy had made equivalent comments, he’d be lambasted, and have absolutely no chance of a political career. As a strong proponent of equality, I think we should apply the same measure to everyone. Separate but equal doesn’t work in schools, and in cases like this it fails too.

I fully expect our supreme court justices to bring their personal background and history to the bench. Only a fool would expect otherwise. However, the whole “I’m a minority, and that makes me special” is worrisome. It may be worrisome enough to justify not confirming her. I would be very surprised if this happens, but I can’t say I would be upset if it did. When selecting Supreme Court justices, I would tend to be very cautiouse, and anyone that even hinted at the opinion that a particular minority (any minority) had a more enlightened point of view, or provided a special insight would move them into “hey wait a minute” category. Personally, I would prefer my Supreme Court Justices to be solidly in the “Yeah. This person Works” category….

Google Chrome: Google takes anothe step to being Big Brother

OK, si I admit it, I tried out Google Chrome. The rumors of a fast, mostly-crash-proof browser caught my interest. Oh yeah, and the ‘secure’ (PORN) mode that prevents anyone from “tracking you”….

Anyway, it turns out that chrome not only is a bit faster, and handles crashes fairly well, it also sends every single damn keystroke you make to the mother ship in google land. Of course, they’re only keeping the stuff taht matters to them, the rest ends up in the bit bucket. But exactly WHAT matters to them? After a bit of poking around, it seems they store any passwords, details of any secure accounts you log into (this means that if you pay a bill on line, Google will not only know your bank, account number, etc. they’ll also know the balance. And store it. As far as I can tell, porn mode does the same thing….

Now comes the interesting bit. After deciding that my surfing habits and personal information aren’t really Googles business, I uninstalled chrome. Being a suspicious little bastard, I then proceeded to take a cruise through the behind-the-scenes bits of my PC. Guess what? Even after uninstalling their spy-browser, there was this little turd left behind called Google Reporter.

I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure what this little bit of code was DOING, but I did notice that it periodically fired up a ‘net connection and sent a bunch of stuff out into the ether. You guess where it went – I was too busy yanking my ‘net connection.

After spending some hours digging through the registry and file systems, I’m pretty sure I’ve ripped out google’s little phone home routine, so I hooked back up and surfed over the EFF to see what they thought about chrome. Turns out they’ve already got a slew of privacy warnings and such. Remember when Microsnot decided that they had every right to spy on their users, and the firestorm that followed? Apparently, Google either forgot or just doesn’t care….

So there ya go kiddies. The ‘do no evil’ company has decided that spting isn’t evil. ‘course, the fact that everything they store is freely available to any cop or fed that asks for it shouldn’t worry you. We all know that the cops are just as upright, honest, and trustworthy as Google, right?

man, do I hate that whole Xmass thing….

grinch.jpgSo call me the grinch. That whole xmass present orgy, month of sappy songs crap just does nothing for me. Except make me reallyglad I’m Jewish.  Being Jewish means I don’t have to worry about xmass presents (I won’t call is christmas because it has nothingto do with religion any more – except worship of the all-holy buck, materialism, and consumerism). So, as grudging acknowledgement of the orgy of consumerism that the next few weeks will represent, here is my Xmass posting. Chappy Chanukkah, Cherry mixmaster, and all that crap. Now get back to work.

 Things I won’t do this month:

  1. Go to the mall. Any mall. While you are all running around like crazy running up your credit card bills, I’ll be sitting at home sipping something toasty, and laughing.
  2. For that matter, I won’t go shopping. screw the mall. I’ll stay out of all the stores except the grocery store. Heh. I’ll even avoid that for the week or so before Xmass.
  3. listen to crappy xmass music. It started before thanksgiving, and I’ve turned off my radio in favor of records (yay vinyl), CDs, and Ipod. Sometime around New Years, I may return to radio, but certainly not before then.
  4. Pretend that I care about people I really don’t give a crap about. Hey gang, MY holiday celebrates a military victory over yet another government bent on destroying my ancestors. In that particular event, my ancestors kicked the living crap out of their tormentors. Now THAT’s something worth celebrating.
  5. make the slightest effort to make anyone think I give a crap about the whole xmass thing. Show me the folks that are spending the day in church, doing their 6AM mass, midnight mass, and the whole shebang, and I’ll acknowledge that there are a few folks out there that can actually recall what Christmas means. Oh yeah, they’re also the ones that aren;t participating in the whole Buy Buy Buy thing…..

So there ya go. Go on ouot, ramp up your debt, and do your best to boost the economy. I’ll sit home, ignore the whole idiotic orgy, and enjoy the fact that I don’t feel obligated to buy present on demand. I can wait until I find something that actually has meaning, deliver it as a surprise, and make somebodies day.

Iranian Nukes – or are they WMDs?

So the Bush is at it again. Turns out that the last 4 years of rhetoric about Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” (that’s Nukular, if your name is bush…) is just that: rhetoric. as in hot air, double speak, political blathering, or 9dare we say it) outright lies. Despite the fact that pretty much the entire world is ‘fessing up to the fact that they bought George’s Big Lie Re: WMD and starting the iraq war, old georgie seems to think that he can fool the world again. Except this time, the intelligence wonks over at spook central, USA have realized that supporting the Bush WMD lie has cost a lot of folks their careers, and that old georgie’s days are numbered anyway. That means that chances are pretty good if you’re a spook working for the USA, and you don’t toe the Bush policy line this time around, chances are good you won’t get punted. You may even get a promotion. (Goes to show what type of folks work for the spooks, eh?).

 ‘Course, old Georgie ain’t buyin’ it. “Iran was, is, and always will be a danger”. They stopped their nuclear (NUKULAR) research program 4 years ago, but they COULD restart it, so all you voters keep being scared! Remember, The Decider KNOWS what is really going on – even if his spook puppets are finally showing some spine and refusing to cook their data to support him…

I’ve really started to wonder if this bozo is so delusional that he actually believes the crap he spouts, or if he’s simply got his head rammed so far up his posterior that he hasn’t realized yet that the entire friggin world knows he’s lying through his teeth….

Will someone PLEASE give this clown a BJ so we can get rid of him?

Another New Blog: Behind The Iron Desk – Teaching in Modern America

Well folks, in the spirit of subject-specific blogs, I’m going to start doing the whole teaching blog bit over at Behind The Iron Desk. In case you didn’t notice, Ask Dr. Science has also moved to Ask Dr. Science, but of course, I’ll still be taking Dr. science questions here (the answers will be at the new site though).
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