Friday, March 31, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Procrastination

Couldn't decide on a caption, so this Friday you get three. The last one is by Lincoln, by the way.

Some of you may recognize the picture - it's a giant billboard that hangs in New York near Time's Square. The original clock was erected in 1989 when the national debt stood at 2.7 trillion dollars. But sometime in the next two years, the total US debt is going to be over TEN TRILLION DOLLARS! (Make sure to say that at the top of your voice in your best Dr. Evil impression). The current clock doesn't even have enough spaces to fit it.

An often overlooked aspect of taxes is that every time our government borrows a dollar, you end up paying about a $1.20 or more in taxes fifteen years later (in today's dollars, not after inflation). That amount is going way up, since we're borrowing more and have to offer investors a better rate. So the question is not whether we want lower taxes or higher taxes. The question is whether we want higher taxes now or much higher taxes later.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Distraction: Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny

Funny Flash video to distract you for two minutes.

It's by Lemon Demon. While only 19, this kid apparently has more talent then 90% of the bands out there. God bless the internet.

Here's a list of his free MP3's which you can download.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Article: Another Reason I Don't Own A Car

The long battle between NY and DC over who has the bigger pot hole problem is over. New York wins.

From Newsday:
A 20-foot-wide sinkhole swallowed a sport utility vehicle early Monday after a water main break collapsed a section of road, flooding part of a subway line and causing commuter havoc, fire officials said.

Nancy Batista, 46, whose SUV was registered to a Kissimmee, Fla., address, suffered cuts and bruises and was taken to Lutheran Medical Center for observation, said Neil Gorman, a hospital spokesman. Batista was in stable condition Monday night and was expected to be released Tuesday, he said.
Honestly, I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or not. On one hand, it's a massive hole in my home town. On the other hand, it will discourage SUV's and tourists from going to my home town. Tough call.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Teamwork


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Government: Polling and the Media

CNN and Gallup have broken up:

CEO Gallup Jim Clifton wrote to employees: "We have chosen not to renew our contract with CNN. We have had a great relationship with CNN, but it is not the right alignment for our future. .... CNN has far fewer viewers than it did in the past, and we feel that our brand was getting lost and diluted," Clifton continued. "...We have only about 200,000 viewers during our CNN segments."


"We want to make it clear that the decision to not renew our polling arrangement had to do with Gallup's desire to produce their own broadcasts and not about CNN viewership figures. In fact, Gallup had negotiated with us for four months in an effort to extend the partnership. While we appreciate that Gallup does not wish to have any broadcasting partner for the future, I must note that CEO Jim Clifton's excuse to his employees for ending the relationship has no basis in fact. It shows ignorance of not only our viewership figures but of the reach and value of the CNN brand."


"For the last few months," CNN has "been in the process of reevaluating" their polling strategy "and have been in discussion with a number of other polling services. We hope to have an announcement of our new partner in the near future. It is unfortunate that Mr. Clifton's insecurity about the strength of the Gallup brand has pushed him to send out an inaccurate and unprofessional e-mail to his staff."

Here's a dirty little secret about polling. (Well, its not really secret, but most people don't know about it). The vast majority of polls are commissioned by the six major media outlets, which collectively own 95% of the television, print, and radio media, with large presences online as well. These polls are commissioned, written, fielded, and analyzed with one purpose - to create or support news stories.

They are also wildly inaccurate. They don't tell you how popular the President is or who is going to win the next election. They don't tell you what people feel or think. They tell you how 400 people, who picked up their land line telephones after a computer randomly dialed their phone number, responded to poorly worded questions, presenting false dichotomies, that vaguely relate to well known political figures or issues, for 20-40 minutes without hanging up.

I hope that Gallup goes under, and that CNN and the other media outlets stop buying news. Here's an idea - investigate the government, business, military, and anyone else in positions of power. If only they had a word for that? Isn't it journal-something?


Monday, March 20, 2006

Article: The Hidden Side of Happiness

I like this article because it confirms my world view.

What doesn't kill you can actually make you stronger. Post-traumatic stress is far from the only possible outcome. In the wake of even the most terrifying experiences, only a small proportion of adults become chronically troubled. More commonly, people rebound - or even eventually thrive.

Those who weather adversity well are living proof of one of the paradoxes of happiness: We need more than pleasure to live the best possible life. Our contemporary quest for happiness has shriveled to a hunt for bliss - a life protected from bad feelings, free from pain and confusion.

Now to be clear, most things that don't kill you actually make you much weaker - age, disease, poisons, accidents, war, deaths of loved ones, etc. But the horrors of life are part of what make us human. For a long time, psychology has focused on how bad things lead to mental pathologies - depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress syndrome - just to name a few. For a psychologist, these patholoies are a problem to be done away with, as they should be. But the stress and instability of trying situations can also be used to re-forge our lives into something better. And individuals who seek happiness by trying to avoid or shield themselves from negative events sometimes do themselves a disservice.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Optimism vs. Pessimism

To quote James Branch Caball, "The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true."

Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

I have a better saying, known as DC's Law: "Anything will go wrong."

I find that, in the long run, I'm accurate 100% of the time.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Distraction: Worth 1000

Like most people, I'm at the height of my creativity when I use the work of other, more creative individuals. My favorite creative people to ste... uh, borrow ideas from, post their work at Worth 1000.

Also, if you ever have any ideas and a picture to go with them, send them to me. Humor is the intersection of art and pain. I've got the pain part down, so I need your help with the art.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Article: Abu Ghraib

Salon has posted all of the Abu Ghraib pictures, with an article discussing the issue. A must read for anyone serious about human rights.

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

~Fyodor Dostoevsky

"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

~Matthew 25:44-46

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

~George W. Bush

Monday, March 13, 2006

Article: Cubicles, the Office Furniture of Pain

It's actually quite an interesting article:

Robert Oppenheimer agonized over building the A-bomb. Alfred Nobel got queasy about creating dynamite. Robert Propst invented nothing so destructive. Yet before he died in 2000, he lamented his unwitting contribution to what he called "monolithic insanity."

Propst is the father of the cubicle. More than 30 years after he unleashed it on the world, we are still trying to get out of the box. The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence.

I hate my cube. But in the grand scheme of things, it is far better then the alternative - the open bullpen office. Maybe you've seen them in the Kafka-esque movies of the past - dozens of desks, in open rows with nothing in between them, where literally everyone can see exactly what you're doing at every moment. Shudder.

Now ideally, everyone would get an office. But realistically, its just not going to happen. I know plenty of highly educated, highly credentialed, senior employees - many of whom are managers, lawyers, and PhD's - who work in cubicles. I've observed that the only way to get your own office (and I've had one at previous jobs) is to:

1) Start your own business.
2) Work at a very small business/non-profit, where they pay you 30% less.
3) Donate lots of money to the Republican party and become a political appointee.
4) Build one from the bones of the poor and use their blood to lubricate your vast financial empire.

Note that only number two is mutually exclusive to the others.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Hubris

This week the administration began laying the groundwork for attacking Iran. Look for more of the same as the mid-term elections get closer.

Seriously, how many countries do these people want to invade during one presidency? They already have two - are they trying to set some sort of record? At some point, after they invade their fourth or fifth country, I wonder if one his aides will walk up to President Bush and say, "Hey, we just broke Napoleon's record. Another reason we're better then the French! U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Also, if you're a single woman and you know where this week's obscure Demotivational quote comes from, we should seriously be dating.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Article: Parental Notification of Abortion in Texas Does Not Reduce Unwanted Pregnancies

Sadly, my headline was not the headline being used by all the news outlets. Most of them used something akin to "Teen abortions reduced by Texas notification law." And that's exactly how its playing out in the media - Restricting Abortion Laws = Fewer Abortions. Not a huge stretch of the imagination.

Except for the inconvenient fact that the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, makes no such claim...

It states in much more precise language:

After enforcement of the law, abortion rates fell by 11 percent among 15-year-olds (rate ratio, 0.89; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.83 to 0.94), 20 percent among 16-year-olds (rate ratio, 0.80; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.76 to 0.85), and 16 percent among 17-year-olds (rate ratio 0.84; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.80 to 0.87), relative to the rates among 18-year-olds. Among the subgroup of minors 17.50 to 17.74 years of age at the time of conception (who would have been subject to the parental notification law in early pregnancy), birth rates rose by 4 percent relative to those of teens 18.00 to 18.24 years of age (rate ratio, 1.04; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.00 to 1.08). The adjusted odds ratio for having an abortion after 12 weeks' gestation among minors 17.50 to 17.74 years of age as compared with 18-year-olds was 1.34 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.10 to 1.62).

The Texas parental notification law was associated with a decline in abortion rates among minors from 15 to 17 years of age. It was also associated with increased birth rates and rates of abortion during the second trimester among a subgroup of minors who were 17.50 to 17.74 years of age at the time of conception. [Emphasis mine.]

Got that everyone? The notification law was associated with some minor declines in abortion for 15-17 year olds. One of the most basic premises of statistics is that correlation does not equal causation. This result may be entirely spurious, and has yet to be replicated in other research. A better study would have tracked 10,000 or so 14-18 year olds in Texas with a similar demographic group in another state without notification laws during the same time period. But they decided to do it on the cheap. But let's disregard that for a moment, and take their results at face value.

Abortions among 15-17 year olds went slightly down, but birth rates went slightly up, and many abortions were simply delayed to the second trimester, when it is more dangerous. There is no evidence that the number of unwanted pregnancies were effected, just the number and timing of abortions.

The study's authors go to immense lengths to qualify their language. The media took the easy route, and now its talking points for right wingers.

Reuters, to their credit, does a half decent job of exploring the issue, even if their headline is wildly inaccurate. But just take a perusal of headlines, or turn on your cable news network, and you'll see how little this country understands math, and how that ignorance has a deleterious effect on public policy.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Distraction: Brokeback Mountain in 30 seconds

It's been a really slow news week so far.

So if you're bored, like I am, this link will alleviate it for 30 seconds. Maybe less.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Distraction: Natalie Portman on SNL

Freaking Hilarious. Can be seen here. Now I love her even more.

I missed it over the weekend (and by missed, I mean I never bother to watch SNL because it's rarely funny anymore and I've got better things to do on Saturday night) but Mikey was nice enough to TiVo it and tell me about it.

Scroll down to "Rap" for the funniest video - its the one with the black and white picture of her face in close-up.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Arrogance (again)

This is a continuation of two weeks ago. When I was thinking of captions for Cheney, I tried to imagine what the slogan for the Bush administration should be. This one came to mind. But I couldn't find the right caption, so I had to make one. I'm going to go put a drill to my brain pan now to try and get the mental image out of my head.