Friday, December 14, 2007

Paul's Law

I'm sure most of you who spend any real time on this here innernets thing are aware of Godwin's Law. From Wikipedia:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
I have a new law which is similar and seems just as sound:

The more heated a discussion about the disparities of wealth distribution, the probability of the description "apartheid" being applied approaches one.

Had to get it out there before someone else noticed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thoughts on the 2008 Jeep Liberty

From: http://www.allpar.com/trucks/jeep/liberty-2008.html

In addition, the mechanical transfer case worked well but many women did not like it due to the effort required, so they moved to an electronic shift, which is much easier.
Like I said, I had a feeling that the hair-gel crowd was throwing their shoulders out using the testosterone infused manual floor lever of the 02-07 Liberty to switch to the 4wd modes.
[...]in particular, since most Liberty buyers have been women, we wondered if that would be an issue. Ralph responded that historically, women will buy a man's car; what they liked about the Liberty was mainly the manageable size, which made it easy to park, fun to live with, and easy to own. It now looks more capable and rugged, which should appeal more to men, while still keeping the form factor liked by its current buyers.
So, we took a curvy car, bought mostly by women, and made it "tough" by removing the manual transfer case shift and making it push-button electronic, moved the spare tire from the gate to an under-vehicle mount ('cause hey, the driver won't be crawling around on the wet, muddy ground to pull off the spare, that's what some man who comes to help the driver will do) and made the ride less bouncy and bumpy 'cause women don't like being tossed around. But it "looks more rugged" so men will buy it...or something. Add in the longer wheel base and you just reduced your ability to turn the truck around on a motorcycle trail. Another feature women were probably annoyed with: turning around on a mountain trail. Like who needs that?

I think I made my opinion on the curvy shape of cars known some time ago. But since I like to hear myself talk (or type) I'll make it known again. Back in the day, like up through the sixties, men wanted curvy cars, there was an ideal that the car was a beautiful woman, and therefore the man wanted to be seen in something with feminine lines. Kind of like I fancy myself inside something with feminine lines. But that's another story. Over the years-- I'd say starting around the eighties, men no longer wanted to be seen riding a woman, they wanted to be seen riding another man. Somehow, everything got turned on its head: A man riding a woman: Gay. A man riding another man: Straight. Nothing to see here, please move along.


Anyhoo, while my truck was in for its 48k service, I was talking to the dealer the about the '08 and I told him that I was a bit old fashioned because I liked the tire on my 4wd vehicles to be on the vehicle, visible, accessible. Tailgate preferred. The roof can look cool if you have one of those cage-type roofracks. A friend of mine is partial to the hood, which I think was ok back in the sixties when even the offroad tires were fairly skinny, but unfortunately, you put a tire on the hood of a car these days and you're just going to seriously impair your visibility. Cool as it looks, it's a bit like wearing sunglasses at night. When the heavy shit comes down, you're going to regret it.

In general, I've had a chance to look around the '08 and it seems like they luxed it up. It seems more...refined. Like if you have a flat tire, you call AAA and wait by the side of the road in your black pumps, waiting for something with more testosterone to change the tire for you. After all, hell if you're going to be the one lying on your back in your Club Monaco shirt just to get the spare tire off the vehicle, let alone get it changed. I once helped a woman change a tire on her SUV because her own husband refused to do it. Spare tire mounting: under vehicle; Weather: Raining; State of clothes when finished: ruined; Her husband: smarter than I am.

Yes, the 02-07 Liberty is very easy to drive. One of the most forgiving vehicles I've ever had the pleasure of driving. My mom's luxury Cadillac forces me to use driving skills I haven't relied on in years. No wonder old people are always crashing through 15 isles at the Fred Meyer claiming the accelerator was "stuck". Good lord, her turning radius is measured in foot-ball field lengths, her stopping distance is atrocious, she has nearly zero visibility when backing up due to the highly stylish but nearly useless side-view mirrors. There's a mile of "invisible" trunk behind the rear window-- ignore the crunching noises, just parallel parking here! Her wheel base is something near to the U.S.S. Nimitz in length, it has zero clearance- you get more underside scraping noises off a speedbump at the Safeway than I do in 25 miles of ORV-only trails, and it's got more electronics prone to failure than anything the British could possibly dream up after a long gin-soaked night out on the town.

Believe it or not, I like the old Liberty and I feel that the 08 model year is a bit uninspired and, despite it's more "rugged looks" is less rugged and more fit for the latte-sipping hair-gel crowd.

I had something witty to say, but now it escapes me. I'll just end with:

04 Liberty RULEZ! 08 Liberty DR00LZ!

There, that's the smartest thing I've said all week.

**Update: I told you so.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Banning substances makes you not want to do them, or, The War On Drugs is working

Oopsy, I don't think that's what NPR meant to say, even though that's precisely what they did say. I heard a story on NPR this morning about how recent nationwide smoking bans work, if not by way of smoke and second hand smoke health benefits, but simply because when you aren't allowed to smoke, your ability to quit eases significantly. Here's the meat and potatoes:

Nationwide, smoking bans are on the rise in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Research shows that bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, actually result in people quitting.

One reason bans help people quit is simple biology. Inhaling tobacco actually increases the number of receptors in the brain that crave nicotine.

"If you had a smoker compared to a nonsmoker and were able to do imaging study of the brain, the smoker would have billions more of the receptors in areas of the brain that have to do with pleasure and reward," says Richard Hurt, an internist who heads the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center.
What's interesting about this story is not what it says, but what it doesn't say. The implications seem patently obvious that if what NPR says is true, then wouldn't that follow with all banned substances such as, say, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and dozens of other addictive substances which are banned outright? I don't have any evidence that NPR are cheerleaders for and end to the war on drugs or have a particular editorial bias against it, but I do know that they have many stories which are critical of the war on drugs. One of my biggest complaints about smoking bans-- a complaint which seems to increasingly fall on deaf ears-- is that we are systematically rolling everyday substances into the drug war. Ultimately, what's the difference between banning cocaine and banning cigarettes? As of late, the only difference is that there is no nationwide federal ban on cigarettes... yet. Municipalities are continuously banning cigarettes in wider and wider venues, however.

In my opinion, this is where drug wars start. We are seeing a new appendage to the drug war beginning to sprout, and in my estimation, many people who claim to be against the so-called "war on drugs" are supporting these same increasingly draconian municipal smoking bans with little or no sense of irony.

Aside: The NPR story made a segue into another smoking-related story about bans taking effect in mental institutions. The unintentionally funny quote of the year is in the audio of the story. At one point, there are worries expressed that mentally ill people who may be seeking treatment may not do so because if they find out they can't smoke in their favorite mental institution, they may avoid said treatment. The commentator in the story said, and I quote, "Mentally ill people may not have so much to fear".

Isn't it the very difinition of severe mental illness that you're completely loaded down with irrational fears that you can't be talked out of by logic and reason?

Phew, it appears that NPR has stumbled upon the best treatment for the mentally ill: Just tell them all their fears are unfounded. Who'da thunk?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dutch reform drug laws and move to a more American style system

The drug war is getting a wider appeal these days with the Dutch banning magic mushrooms.

The Netherlands will ban the sale of hallucinogenic mushrooms, the government announced Friday, tightening the country's famed liberal drug policies after the suicide of an intoxicated teenage girl.

The ban — in response to the death and other highly publicized adverse reactions involving the fungus — is the latest backlash against the freewheeling policies of the past.
What's interesting here is that surely the Dutch have had some drug related deaths before this. My question is, what took them so long? Now if we can just get them working on marijuana, trans fats and cigarettes, we'll have more parity.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Chinese peasants have enough to eat; Scientists puzzle over how to reverse the trend.

The world's getting bigger, even the Chinese. This a bad thing, according to an article by Linda Shrieves in the Orlando Sentinel.

In developing countries such as China, lower prices for cooking oil have led to more fried foods. At the same time, food prices are declining, and people around the world are picking up Americans' bad habits: consuming fast food, sodas and other high-calorie snacks and drinks.

Scientists are looking at some techniques, drugs and the like which may curb appetite:

While the obesity epidemic has exploded, some scientists have been frantically trying to find a drug that will curb appetites. The answer, some say, may be a "drug cocktail," a combination of medications that doctors would prescribe before patients become obese.

Note to scientists: According to Ted Turner, North Korea has this nut cracked.

I'm sorry about your wife, but...

Do we really need to weaken our privacy laws, and rules on search warrants because a woman drove off the road in her Honda Element? I say no.

With Tom Rider at her side, Rahr also said she will push for legislation to ensure missing-persons detectives have better access to cellphone records. She said that if sheriff's detectives had not been held up by having to get a search warrant to obtain Tanya Rider's cellphone records, they would've found the Maple Valley woman three days earlier.

[...]

On Tuesday, Tom Rider said he planned to go to Olympia to deliver a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire to explain why cellphone-privacy policies almost cost his wife her life. Though the King County Sheriff's Office requested Rider's cellphone records through Verizon on Sept. 24, it wasn't until three days later — after a warrant was obtained — that the information was released.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Study: Sticking needles in your body wherever you want reduces back pain (part 2).

It's been a while on the old blog for me, but I couldn't pass this one up, especially considering I did a post on this very subject a while back. The AP reports that a new study shows that both "fake" and "real" acupuncture (is there really a difference?) helps with back pain. What makes me go freakin' nuts is that the headline in the Seattle Times reads: "Study: Acupuncture works for back pain"

What's amazing, is that they debunk their own story in the first paragraph:

CHICAGO — Fake acupuncture works nearly as well as the real thing for low back pain, and either kind performs much better than usual care, German researchers have found.

Almost half the patients treated with acupuncture needles felt relief that lasted months. In contrast, only about a quarter of the patients receiving medications and other Western medical treatments felt better.

Even fake acupuncture worked better than conventional care, leading researchers to wonder whether pain relief came from the body's reactions to any thin needle pricks or, possibly, the placebo effect.
I'm not sure what the reaction from trained acupuncturists is going to be, but you can, with diamond hard logic prove to them that any time or money spent studying acupuncture was a complete waste.

Chinese medicine holds that there are hundreds of points on the body that link to invisible pathways for the body's vital energy, or qi. The theory goes that stimulating the correct points [emphasis mine]with acupuncture needles can release blocked qi.
I have personally spoken with trained acupuncturists that suggested that there was such a thing as incorrect or bad acupuncture, where undesirable effects could occur. Basically, if true believers claim this as a victory for acupuncture, this would be the same as evidence based medicine claiming victory by having a study where medication-- any medication-- given for a particular ailment was effective.

Update: It appears the headline as it appeared in the Seattle Times has changed ever so slightly. My original link to the story above no longer works, and a search of the site now shows the headline as: "Study: Fake acupuncture helps ease low-back pain". This, in my opinion is a far more honest treatment of the subject matter. Methinks they had some nice folks point out the unintentional hilarity of the original title juxtaposed with the story?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Driving drunk, talking on a cell phone, it's all the same to me.

The state of Washington finally passed a ban on talking on a cell phone while driving. One nutcase legislator named Tracy Eide-D Federal Way had this to say:
"It's absolutely a safety issue," Eide, D-Federal Way, said after the vote. She said talking on a cellphone while driving is "equivalent to driving while you're intoxicated."

The hell? Does one even need to respond to that bit of idiocy? Eide has been trying for seven years to get a cell phone ban. The long winter evenings must fly by at the old Eide household. Cell phone bans are some of the most stupid and infantilizing type of legislation around. To wit:
It will still be legal to use hands-free devices such as earphones and Bluetooth technology, and to talk on licensed amateur radios. The legislation imposes no limits on emergency workers, tow-truck operators or motorists trying to call law enforcement.
Clearly, "talking" on a cell phone must not be the equivalent of driving while intoxicated. Do we allow tow-truck operators, emergency workers or motorists with an emergency drive while intoxicated? No we don't. If it's the talking that's dangerous, why are hands free devices allowed? One must still dial the phone. Oh, and anyone who tries the voice recognition come-back, I've used cell-phone voice recognition. Believe me, you're still going to be dialing.

I will still be talking on my cell phone in Washington.