You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Ten Things…

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on December 4, 2008

Via Ann Althouse, ten things you’re not supposed to point out (“Am I not supposed to point out this list?”)

1. The will of the people is wrong.

True, but it’s still a best-available solution, as the will of one person can be much wronger (see e.g. Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Jim Jones, etc)

2. Everything isn’t “for the best”; we only look for the best and ignore the rest.

True, if you take the saying literally, which I don’t. A better interpretation is that it’s meant to remind us that while we’re not entirely in control of our fate, it’s not completely out of our hands either. Just because the last thing that happened was bad, doesn’t mean the next thing has to be.

3. Nature is evil.

Wrong, but we begin to get the thread of this list …it’s more like “ten things you probably think if you grew up in a rich society and don’t get out much”. If your window into nature is The Lion King, I can see how you’ll think ‘evil’ the first time you find out about that whole food chain thing. Nature isn’t evil, it’s amoral.

4. Patriotism is dumb.

True, but irrelevant – as Mussolini, among others, found at the outbreak of World War I. Anachronistic as it might be, people are hard wired to feel a group identity. If you don’t think you feel one, chances are your group’s ideology includes the conviction that only the unenlightened others are susceptible to an us-vs-them mentality (see e.g. “Obamania“)

5. Christianity is polytheism.

Also irrelevant, except to those who enjoy clever mocking of Christianity. Polytheistic religions haven’t been influential since the fall of the Roman Empire, and devotees of any religion are interested in advancing their exact creed, not measuring the relative drawing power of broad religious categories.

6. Sports are homoerotic.

Obnoxiously wrong. Just because you aren’t a competitive personality (I’m not) doesn’t mean that nobody else is either and therefore people who idolize athletes are secretly gay and hot for them. I admire Bode Miller‘s skiing talent, but I don’t necessarily want to throw back a beer with him, let alone sleep with him. (I’m not hot for Picabo Street either)

7. Traditional gender roles are prostitution.

See #3. Yes, humans are herd animals. Yes, that means it’s in our nature to act like other herd animals. Yes, it’s ridiculous to call it prostitution. Unless it’s your position that apes or gazelles are also prostitutes suffering under the patriarchy.

8. Parents teach their children to lie, and are then infuriated when their children lie.

Yes, hypocrisy – and especially obliviousness to same – are the main block to social progress.

9. Most knowledge is restricted to elite experts, and even they don’t know very much.

As comforting as it is to think that nobody else is any smarter or more knowledgeable than you, it’s just not true. Accepting this fact is better than ignoring it (see #8 above) Most of the people around you have knowledge to share, and you will always be surprised – sometimes shocked – at just how much.

And finally…

10. People are convinced more by how confident someone sounds when making a point than by how correct it is.

No argument there. You tend to expect people to sound unsure if they don’t know what they’re talking about, but I’ve run across several people over the years who can converse with total confidence about things of which they are utterly ignorant. The only way you’d realize it is if you happen not to be ignorant in the same subject.


Links For 11/21/2008

Posted in Four Wheels, Miscellaneous, Politics by Stacy McMahon on November 21, 2008

* Study says some kids can learn marketable skills through social networking. I’ve also personally seen several people learn social skills online and then go out and use them in the real world.

* Google isn’t the only game in town for web searching, but it’s one of the recommended ways to search for more specialized search engines.

* Don’t let people get away with being jerks in public. I’m of two minds on this. I’m all for taking hateful snobs down a peg, but I don’t see any value in having people get in each other’s faces over politics. Anecdotally, that’s what preceded the civil wars in Bosnia and various other places in the last 20 years.

* What financial crisis? Small banks that hold deposits and make loans the old-fashioned way are doing just fine, thanks. Imagine that.

* The electric Mini-E has impressive specs for a pure electric car, plus a long-ass press release. Though, at $850/mo to lease the car, it’s not for everyone. Or anyone.

* Lung cancer patient’s own stem cells used to grow a new section of windpipe! This is Star Trek stuff ; replacement body parts with no anti-rejection drugs. The future is now.

What’s On My Mind, Nov. 17, 2008

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on November 17, 2008

Trying to make this more of a “what I’m reading and thinking about” versus just fun “links” of the day…

* The Financial Times has an insider perspective on the financial crisis in Iceland, where apparently a dozen or so banker who worship at the altar of Nick Leeson managed to literally bankrupt the entire country several times over. For comparison, the article mentions that the $700bn bailout allocation in the US is about 5% of GDP; Iceland’s banking liabilities are several multiples of its entire GDP.

* Autoblog has engine porn — the Callaway Cyclone V-16. Though it recently abandoned the architecture, Yamaha is famous in the sportbike world for its 5-valve-per-cylinder heads, which Callaway (primarily known for its Corvette-based supercars) apparently helped develop. The Cyclone has four 5-valve cylinder heads from the late 1990s 1,000cc Yamaha R1, arranged around a common crankshaft in an aluminum block claimed to have a dry weight under 400 lbs. It’s good for 550 bhp at 10,000 rpm. Me being me, I’m picturing it with a two-speed supercharger and installed in a Thunder Mustang

* Autoblog also has a great regular feature called “Sunday Drive”. This week’s route takes us through Malibu Canyon and is – I’m sure – great on two wheels or four. Too bad I live on the east coast, but then maybe there are other readers out here who might like a Sunday Drive on 33/250 in WV.

* And YouTube comes through with the original music from the Canon Rebel XSi commercial (“Life is a journey…”). You know, the one with the nostalgic piano solo playing under a montage of family photos.

Links For 11/16/2008

Posted in Miscellaneous, Politics by Stacy McMahon on November 16, 2008

* So you put wheels on your treadmill and drive it down the street, Fred Flintstone style. It is “The Most Pointless Exercise Machine Of All Time“, or just an epic fail waiting to happen?

* And speaking of fail, how about this picture from the California wildfires!

* UAW boss Ron Gettelfinger wants us to know it’s the economy, not the 40% higher cost of union labor at the Big Three, that has Detroit swirling down the drain. Yeah.

* The New Scientist has a roundup of myths and reality about going green at home. A couple of the answers are a little off, like the claim that laptop batteries should be completely drained and then recharged, but overall it’s topical and up to date.

* I am shocked, shocked! to learn that redlight-camera industry insiders get out of paying their tickets.

* ” ” ” ” ” ” that Democrats in Washington want to use the Federal bailout to reprioritize Detroit from building gas guzzlers most people don’t want, to building CAFE-designed cars most people won’t want.

Links For 11/14/2008

Posted in Miscellaneous, Politics by Stacy McMahon on November 14, 2008

* John McWhorter on how Obama’s election will affect black attitudes (via Instapundit). I especially hope he’s right about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton being put in perspective. Their outlook has been obsolete for years, but they were still the only game in town. Now they’re not.

* Robert Farago reminds us that bailing out “domestic” automakers is an elusive goal when GM, Ford and Chrysler all import major subassemblies or entire vehicles from overseas, and Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi and BMW make vehicles in the US for sale here and abroad.

* A Chicagoland high school student demonstrates that provoking the followers of a personality cult gets the same results today as it always has (via Snowflakes In Hell). Well, she’s still alive so maybe there’s been some progress.

* Former county treasurer Grandpa Simpson Carol Elliott of Ventura County, NH, blamed those damn kids for replacing her with a college student on election day. No, really. And she’s a Republican. Sigh.

* And an analysis of Prop 8’s success in allegedly liberal California. I read elsewhere that almost all the newly registered voters in this election were minorities who registered as, and presumably voted Democrat. I suspect a lot of these people helped vote down gay marriage even while they were helping vote up Barack Obama. The black community – at least where I live – is no friend of gays, and I have the impression that the hispanic community is quite socially conservative too.

* And finally, some good old-fashioned FAIL! from our friends at the Fail Blog.

Links For 11/8/2008

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on November 8, 2008

What I’m Seeing Tonight:

* Berlusconi: Medvedev is a friend of Dorothy (via Ann Althouse). You can’t make this shit up!

* Jeremiah Wright says he was used to try to derail Obama’s campaign …by the media. See above.

* (drop-ee-o) looks like a nice free dropbox site. Like Xpenser, it gives you a lot of ways to get to it besides just a web browser on a PC.

* I don’t get real excited by pimped-out cars anymore, but I guess there might still be a reason to attend SEMA

* 1.) Panic over gas prices, 2.) Trade Suburban for Civic, 3.) Slap forehead after realizing your kids don’t fit in the back now.

Michael Crichton Has Died

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on November 5, 2008

On Election Day. Wow. And for some reason I’m surprised that he was in his mid-60s. I guess I shouldn’t be, since his early novels were published in the 60s. Anyway, take a moment and mourn the passing of a great American writer and thinker. Besides creative tours de force like Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead (movie-fied as The 13th Warrior) and ER, he had some cogent things to say on politics. He will be missed.

Links for Oct 29, 2008

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on October 29, 2008

* Lisa Kansas identifies a guy who gets the basic rules of interacting with women. What are the basics? Talk to her like a real person, avoid staring at her boobs. That’s a whole post? Lisa is this impressed that a guy knows not to stare and grab?

* Editor & Publisher has a nice Q&A with some former White House photographers on the role of the president’s personal shutterbug. I like the notion that the photographer’s role is to record history, not provide material for the press office. The photo of Reagan throwing a paper airplane is a good example – it’s a wonderful portrait of a man with the world on his shoulders, who still finds a moment in his day to have some fun. But oh, imagine the attack ads if it were released before his last reelection campaign!

* Via Instapundit, coffee (well, specifically caffeine) can apparently fix, after the fact, the tendency for your brain to make shit up when you’re excessively tired. I wonder if this has something to do with the folk wisdom that coffee cures drunkenness. Obviously it won’t drive the alcohol out of your blood, but maybe it prevents some of the cognitive impairment.

* And coffee also helps make that special person sitting across from you feel warm and fuzzy inside. So remember – when you wake up with a hangover, simply drink coffee to ensure you correctly remember the name of whoever is on the other side of your bed. Awkward moment avoided!

* Via AutoBlogGreen, AutoExpress conducts some tests using Ecolog to test various accepted ideas about gas mileage. Some of the results seem pretty obvious – using the air conditioner or putting a lot of weight in the back seat costs quite a bit more gas – but others are surprising. The drag penalty of driving with the windows down is negligible, and modern tire sidewalls are stiff enough that letting the pressure get low won’t make much difference either. I’m mainly interested in getting Ecolog and using it myself…

* Of course maybe gas mileage doesn’t matter if gas prices keep dropping like a rock.

You Stay Classy, Drunk Jerkoffs

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on October 8, 2008

L, a friend who tends bar in Old Town, was assaulted by a patron who hit her in the head with a beer glass. No idea who, but most likely a) it wasn’t a regular, and b) there were a lot of regulars nearby when it happened, which gives me hope that c) the glass-wielding asshat left in a lot worse shape than her victim.

I don’t really get what motivates some people to treat waiters and bartenders like crap, but I know they’re out there. Another time years ago, at the same place, I watched a guy who should have stopped drinking half an hour earlier loudly ask the bartender (not the same one) to take her shirt off and show him the goods. The tough, manly me would have said “Hey! She works hard dealing with dickheads like you everyday, how about a little respect.” The real me sadly sat there and took another pull on my drink. I like to think it would be different today.

Anyway, let’s hope L isn’t hurt too bad and that the perp (who was arrested) gets prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

There’s a Reason For Everything…

Posted in Four Wheels, Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on August 1, 2008

…but we don’t always know what it is. Sometimes we find out, though, and I do get fascinated by the relationships between events.

For example, I got to the office in about 20 minutes this morning; half the normal time. Traffic was flying on 66, and for some odd reason there was a backup to go south on the Beltway, but none to go north (usually it’s the other way ’round) I’d normally have just assumed it was light because of Friday and people on summer vacation, but then I get to work and see this email:


Emergency alert from Fairfax County

3 right lanes of Inner Beltway prior to Braddock Rd blocked due to a tractor trailer accident/fuel leak


That’s the inner loop, which in Virginia is the northbound lanes. The accident almost completely blocks these lanes before the junction with 66. Little traffic making it through the accident site means plenty of space for other traffic to merge in, explaining the ramp reversal and my fast commute!

Side note: a lot of localities have these email alert services and anyone can sign up for them. I’ve found the traffic and local activity categories to be most useful to my everyday life (I also subscribe to some development and county council news that’s not general-interest) Most of the lists seem to be branded “eNews” so that’s a good search term to find your local version.

Fairfax County:
Alexandria (city):