Archive for March, 2009

Attack of the Killer Biologist

Posted in Doom, Politics and Society, Science! on March, 2009 by melendwyr

Walking through the campus of my local university, I’m handed a flyer.

“Objections to Intelligent Design in Biology?” it says. “Come see Michael Behe!”

Oh, Good Lord. The local “Science & the Bible Club” is bringing in the infamous Behe.

The talk is tonight. I wonder if I should attend, if only for curiosity’s sake.

Ha! He’s listed as “New York Times best selling author” on the back of the flyer. Why exactly should we care about that list, again?

Just Another Word

Posted in Doom, Politics and Society on March, 2009 by melendwyr

Just because a country is a democracy doesn’t mean that it values the rule of law, free speech, or any other of the ideas that have somewhat laughingly been called “human rights”.

For examples, see The List: Look Who’s Censoring Now.

Everyone claims to be in favor of human rights, but no two societies seem to have the same idea of what that actually means.

Harold and Maude

Posted in Politics and Society, Reviews on March, 2009 by melendwyr

I’ve had this film recommended to me many times, so I thought I’d finally check it out.

(sigh) It was terribly dull. Interestingly, though, it seems to be one of the first manifestations of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” concept. (Warning: link is to TvTropes. Massive amounts of your time may be lost perusing this fascinating, fascinating site.)

It’s really quite simple: We have a male who, not least because of his tendency towards strong self-regulation, is being stifled in a life of convention, responsibility, and rigidness. Along comes a free-spirited female whose relative lack of restraint and order is initially shocking yet somewhat enticing to the straitlaced male. The two begin a relationship, which may or may not involve coupling or long-term romantic entanglement, but the male’s worldview and attitudes are forever altered. The female often departs, leaving the male to passively follow his new trajectory.

I’d wondered where the template for such films as “Elizabethtown” came from. Perhaps this is it.

See also: the Magical Negro trope.

Thoughts on Seasteading

Posted in Reviews, Science! on March, 2009 by melendwyr

If you don’t know what that is, see Wikipedia’s entry and The Seasteading Institute.

I can’t help but think that this whole deal is a dead end. Why?

Well, it’s not just because most platform designs have to be sufficiently close to shore to be within the jurisdiction of the mainland’s legal systems. And it’s not even a matter of food production.

The primarily flaw I see with the concept of seasteads is that, barring some truly remarkable technological innovations, they are entirely dependent upon mainland resources for building supplies, both for basic maintenance and expansion. I can imagine systems for cultivating and processing sea greens, catching fish, and producing fresh water on-site. At present, though, I can’t see any system for making new building materials out of the resources available in the open water – at least, not materials strong enough for structural use.

If someone figures out a way to make mangroves capable of survival in the open ocean, perhaps floating untethered or at least sending down roots to relatively shallow bottoms, wood could be available. I doubt there are ways to make calciferous shells large and strong enough for even a small boat. Processing silica might be possible, but it would be energy-intensive, and our materials science can’t tell us how to make something strong and resilient enough out of glass. Maybe glass fiber could be developed… I can’t say for certain.

But without effective means of procuring all the necessities of life, seasteads will always be tied to the land. I simply don’t see how they can be made self-sufficient, and how any real freedom is possible without self-sufficiency.

Frustration and Despair

Posted in Politics and Society, Things You Should Read on March, 2009 by melendwyr

I vehemently disagree with John C. Wright on a great many things. But his post, here, is most certainly worth reading.

I have little more to say about the current state of our political and economic systems. It’s just… too horrifying.

It’s a Beautiful Day

Posted in Gardening on March, 2009 by melendwyr

March 17 is the traditional day to plant peas.

Given the unseasonably warm weather I’m having (highs in the high 60s to low 70s, even warmer in the sun) I only hope that I didn’t put them in too late. I actually put out my potato and pepper seedlings to get some dayglow – if it stays this warm, I’ll be giving them direct sunlight in a few days.

The key variable, though, is still nighttime temperature. And it’s been below freezing at less than three days ago.

At any rate, I managed to get my leek seeds, my shallot starters, and my peas planted. My Hamburg-rooted parsley and leaf celery will have to be content with starting indoors and being transplanted later.

An Abattoir of Screaming Children

Posted in Doom, Politics and Society on March, 2009 by melendwyr

Reality check:

The whole reason we gave lots of money to AIG was that we didn’t want them to declare bankruptcy, and they didn’t have enough money to pay their obligations.

Among those obligations were contractual requirements to give obscene amounts of money to certain employees. These contracts went back well before this whole economic mess began to collapse upon our heads.

When companies go bankrupt, the courts can waive their contractual obligations. Not before that, though.

When it nationalizes a company, the government takes on its obligations. Following so far?

By giving AIG lots of money so that it could pay off the things it needed to without going bankrupt, we ensured that some of the money we gave would be given out in those employee bonuses. We didn’t forbid AIG from using the money for that. We didn’t set up preconditions and requirements that AIG had to abide by. We didn’t have the courts nullify the contracts, or try to get the employees to release AIG from its accepted responsibilities. We didn’t even insist that it only pay back its American creditors (as some have complained that much of the money has gone to various European banks). We just gave it the money.

And now every fool in America is squealing.

Most offensive of all: I listened to a “Fresh Air” interview (with Terry Gross) of some woman claiming to be a financial expert. This ‘expert’ claimed that she couldn’t grasp why AIG was insisting that it was contractually obligated to pay these bonuses when we’d previously persuaded banks to renegotiate many of the mortgage agreements they’d made.

Because the banks were the ones being owned money, of course. Anyone can waive something that they’re contractually entitled to. It’s the person who owes who can’t get out of it simply by deciding.

The entire interview was nothing more than waving a red flag at the listeners and informing them of the talking points they should be repeating when they talk about why they’re supposedly outraged.