Friday, July 31, 2015

Mild Amusement: Replace One Word

The first time I encountered something like this, it was in a book called Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again, and it was full of neat tidbits, not all necessarily toilet-related, but short enough to read in a sitting (or read several in a row if you're just really fascinated by learning stuff about history).

A later encounter was online, where movie titles were posted on a social media thread where one word was replaced by a certain body part that appeals to people with a certain type of humor (although to me, situational comedy and pun appreciation makes it appealing).

The Bathroom Reader had one chapter that consisted of replacing a single letter in a historical event, to change the meaning and suggest what it could've been instead. The only example I remember is "The Lone March," (supposed to be "The Long March"), where Mao Zedong couldn't find anyone to join his revolution so he embarked all by himself.

So, today, to relieve my need for some creative amusement, I sat down and made up a few on my own. Without further ado, here's my contribution (note: I'll use historical events, sitcom and movie titles):

The Trail of Bears -- President Jackson was unable to relocate the Cherokee nation because of rabid anti-immigrant opposition by central American natives.

Gransformers -- Optimus Prime and Bumblebee swear allegiance to an elderly woman.

The HoloFaust -- Hitler makes a deal with the devil to sell him all the golden dental implants and earrings of 6 million Jews in return for conquering Europe. (In true Satan fashion, his horribleness found a loophole where the Third Reich only lasted a matter of months). (What is Faust?)

The Big Dang Theory -- The Big Bang Theory had so many holes in it, it kept requiring modifications to it to fit with all the conflicting evidence (this is actually true).

The Mommy -- Newly engaged Rachel has an awkward first meeting with the in-laws when her fiancee's long-distant ancestor Rameses' mother returns from the grave.

Everybody Loves Gaymond -- Gaymond whines about his life with his family who just doesn't understand him (and his overly pushy and critical mother), and tries to keep his marriage together.

Born to be Gild -- A lion's dreams of having a golden statue made of him come to fruition.

Man of Steer -- the strongest man on earth is not a man at all: he was born and raised by bulls.

Jurassic Would -- If people didn't make stupid decisions, there wouldn't be a plot for the movie.

The War of the Hoses -- Britain's 2 strongest families got together for a rousing squirtgun battle.

Schindler's Fists -- A man hiding Jews becomes an unsuspecting recipient of superhuman strength, and takes on the Nazi SS mano a mano.

Lonesome Doge -- Much movie. Very cowboy. Wow.

Star Cars -- Mad Max in space. 'nuff said.

Scar Trek -- Captain Kirk voyages across an unexplored galaxy, getting beat up along the way.

Paraformal Activity -- In this horror movie, a group of teenagers become haunted by the ghosts of questionable prom attire.

Hang 'em Nigh -- bring that noose a little closer.

No Country for Old Hen -- the Little Red Hen finds her work ethic and business savvy unwelcome in the New America.

Lancelit -- A knight rises to fame because his lance glows in the dark. OR What if the Knights of the Round Table had lightsabers?

Pilates of the Caribbean -- Buccaneers have to be in tip-top shape to be ready for boarding ships.

The Balk -- A CBS daytime talk show talks about the hosts' sexual preferences and other explicit material (also true)

That's it for now, hope it tickled someone's funny bone.

~ Rak Chazak

PS I think I'll try to do a blitz sometime early in August to get all the ideas I have lying around out quickly so they won't languish or be a distraction.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I haven't died! (PLU)

Not yet, anyway. After my summer course ended, I've been reviewing various subjects from old textbooks I kept (I never resold a single book at college, figuring there could be some value in the information one day). Then, as my Fall textbooks have been arriving, I went to Staples and grabbed some non-spiral notebooks (so they'll lie flat and not have an irritating ridge in the middle), and I've been going through the early chapters, compiling and condensing the stuff I think I won't remember off the top of my head, and making neat, neat notes out of it.

My Organic Chemistry notebook was done the same way, and I was so thorough and explanatory with it that I've been using it to reteach me, to great success. Organic Chemistry 2, which I have not taken, is a required course for a Chemistry Minor, which I'm going to squeeze in to my course of study. See, because I already have a degree, I don't need to pursue the general education requirements which the program left slots open for, so I can pick other courses to take instead. And as it turns out, all that's required for a chemistry minor is to have a minimum number of courses taken at the university, and a certain number having to be upper-level (300-level and above) courses. And that number exactly matches the slots I have available in between my other classes. (The only question is whether Orgo transfers. I graduated with the class but not the lab (wasn't required), but this university has the lab and class together. It could thwart the minor objective; in that case I suppose I could just retake Orgo once again and get an unquestioned A....then I could pursue a biochemistry major part-time when I become duly employed. I kind of want to do it just to show myself that I can, and that my rocky road the first time around was because of non-academic reasons.

On the subject of not having died, I'm still a little bit skeptical of the accuracy of the blood pressure cuffs at the YMCA, but the values they're giving me are pretty consistent. The across-the-board medical consensus on what's healthy is a blood pressure of 120/80. Either number being less is a sign of above-average cardiovascular health, but higher pressure in either number indicates danger signs for heart issues. The lower number, the diastolic pressure, is the one to watch out for. It indicates the elasticity of your arteries--higher pressure, more trans and saturated fats in your cell membranes, ergo, stiffer arterial walls, meaning that the blood pressure can roughen them, exposing underlying collagen, to which platelets react, then dislodging and causing embolisms. Or not dislodging, and causing atherosclerosis.
[Here's an image] -- comparing the two pressures
The higher pressure indicates the strength of the heart--it is when the stethoscope first hears the pulse, which means that that is how much pressure your heart can generate with each contraction. It's essentially an estimate of the strength of your ventricles, which means that an abnormally high systolic pressure can indicate an enlarged heart muscle, for whatever reason. Conversely, the lower this pressure is, provided you're in visibly good health, the less effort your heart has to put in to do its job.

Yesterday morning, I woke up early enough to start a run at 5:20 a.m. I ran three miles at 7:20, 7:55, 9:35 pace, walked one, and then ran another at 8:35. Heart rate was 161 beats per minute after each segment (the 3-mile and 1-mile). That's a good baseline that I'll use to keep track of how well I'm progressing. The more you run, the better your body optimizes and the lower your resting heart rate, aerobic heart rate, systolic and diastolic arterial pressures will be.

So I was thrilled that the electronic cuff measured my pre-workout blood pressure at 110/57. When I get my physical exam later in the month, I'll find out how accurate those cuffs are.

And in the meantime, I'll keep running. Which requires me to go to bed really early. Days I sleep in are my rest days. My body and I have a two-way dialogue when it comes to exercise. :D

~ Rak Chazak

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"We Can't Be Sure if He Was Tied to A Terrorist Group"

A young man recently killed 4 marines at a recruitment center.

The news media has been telling me, every time I've heard of this since that event took place, that they just can't figure out what his motivation was. Most explicitly, they've said that they can't be sure if he has "ties to a terrorist organization," or "ties to ISIS."

Excuse me, but isn't this missing the point? I doubt it matters whether a drive-by shooting has ties to the Crip gang, Hell's Angels or the Italian Mob for it to count as gang violence. It either is, or isn't. Likewise, it's either terrorism or not terrorism -- whether he has "ties to an existing terrorist organization," while useful for preventing future attacks, is a massive red herring. It's as if the talking heads think we can't call it terrorism unless the guy went to Syria to be trained by ISIS.

Well, what would help you to decide whether he engaged in terrorism?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Tale of Two Pain-Killer Advertisements.

I've always found myself offended by commercials that don't actually explain why their product is better than another -- let alone prove it -- because I realize that they operate on the concept of impressions. That is, they hope that the commercial itself will be memorable, so that when you remember the commercial -- because it was amusing, exciting, original, etc -- your mind associates the memory with the product. For a simple example, someone trying to cheer up someone else by saying "put a smile on" could result in that person saying, "hmmm, you know I am actually in the mood for some McDonald's."

The business incentive is that what people remember better are images and feelings (what something on TV looked like, or how it made you feel) than they do specifics of nitty-gritty facts, like whether Flonase blocks neutrophils, leukotrienes, histamines, etc (these all show up on the screen for their commercial but the persuasion is far less heady than that. It's a simple "we have 6, the competition has 1. We're better, yay! Buy our product").

The idea that someone's trying to get around my conscious decision-making apparatus and try to get me to buy something not because it's a good choice, but because it's the only product in that category that I can remember by recalling commercials, is insulting to me, because I've always preferentially gravitated toward what I can determine to be true and right and good, rather than what merely makes me feel good or what seems popular.

Plot Twist
Similarly insulting is the "identity politics" of various political movements in vogue at the moment. This is not limited to liberal/leftist/democrat agendas, but they are by far more invested in splitting their constituent demographics into groups and targeting single-issue messages to each one of them. When a political figure says "I think you're too dumb to think about more than one issue at a time," it insults me. But it must work, because candidates for both parties generate massive applause by doing what's called "doling out red meat." The primary season for the Republican 2016 field is getting ramped up, and examples of this include people shouting "God bless America" at the end of the speech, as if that's supposed to make every Christian want to vote for them, regardless of what else they said. But democrats are even more insidious, because they don't just utilize identity politics, they are far more effective than republicans at capitalizing on resentment, envy, hatred of 'the other,' often playing their constituent groups against each other. 

One way they insult you is by pretending that seeing more people "like you" represented somewhere, be it among Olympic sports teams (how many Americans are Olympians?), on television (how many of us are TV stars?), on news broadcasts (how many of us are journalists?), etc, that this will somehow improve your life. This is the insulting lie they tell women, blacks, hispanics and homosexuals, among other groups: that without doing anything significant to improve real life for the vast majority of Americans belonging to those groups, they agitate for rich CEOs to increase the amount of women news anchors, or black film leads, or homosexual sitcom actors, and they do this by telling the constituency to be angry that there aren't "more of them" represented in those positions.

The rich people shuffle the deck, the democrats claim victory, and the constituency feels satisfied with the result of something that does diddly squat to improve their life or liberty. And one simply must ask, "do they really think people are that dumb?"

Apparently they do. Whether people are that dumb depends on how representative the many people who happily follow along with this identity politicking are of the sum of the constituent groups in question.

My Point
And that's why a marketing department can propose this advertisement for an over-the-counter painkiller.

A lot of the promotion of homosexuality in television has been seen as "brave" or "bold," ostensibly because so many people are against it that it must be difficult or risky to endeavor. I suppose that means that the makers of this advertisement likewise think that there must be wide swaths of America that are Adoption-Racists, who don't think people should adopt kids who aren't of the same "race," judging by the still shot alone. It's hard to figure out the reasoning of people who don't expect you to be intelligent. What are they really expecting the response to be?

Well, the clear intent of this Tylenol commercial is to say "gay men raising children are just as good of a family dynamic as a man and woman, therefore, buy our product."

What does a painkiller have to do with homosexual households? Shouldn't I get a painkiller based on whether it reduces my pain? But nope, not according to Tylenol. They're banking on the fact that you don't buy painkillers for any scientific reason, but because you want to support the message and corporate policy of the company that creates the painkiller. They are hoping that you will think, "this company advocates for a single issue that I happen to agree with, so I will buy their product to increase their quarterly profits, to send the message that the American people supports their political views."

In contrast, another common painkiller, Aleve, uses this argument:

Aleve works better than Tylenol or Advil. All day long, all day strong.

It might be true, it might not be, but at least they're making the case that you should buy their product because it works.

Perhaps Aleve's corporate bigwigs are just as pro-ssm as Tylenol's are. That's not the point I'm making here. The point I'm making is, the way in which large companies advertise their products is based on how they are rewarded.

If an ad spot generates more revenue by making a scientific argument: "our product works and is better than the competition's," then they will keep doing that.

If an ad spot generates more revenue by making a political statement: "gay marriage, yay!" then they will keep doing that.

The increase in recent days of similar ads, which portray happy homosexual couples (together with blended families and "interracial" couples, as if those things were morally controversial) being 'just like everyone else,' bottle-feeding babies and living the American Dream, seem to demonstrate that when it comes to the Public's response to advertisements, the People are thoroughly committed to rewarding rich people who treat them according to "identity politics," rather than rewarding people who encourage them to think and make decisions based on what works.

The consequences are readily apparent to that proportion of us which prefers to think.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gonzalez case ironically provides an example in favor of a strong central government

Quick recap of the history of "States' Rights"

In 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted, and ratified by 1781 by the original 13 States. Because of the revolutionaries' distrust of an autocratic dictator (seeing as they just fought a war to free themselves from King George's rule), they intentionally made the central government far weaker than the States.

This presented obvious problems to the cohesiveness of the union, as a collection of papers by James Madison outlines. (this was from another link off of the first).

For example, there was no Executive to enforce the acts passed by Congress. Each State began printing its own money, raising its own military, and engaging in international agreements independently of one another.

The States sent representatives to rectify this in the Constitutional Convention. Convening first in 1787, the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789. They gave the central government of the federal system more power. As a pushback to this, there was clamor for a Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution, to guarantee protections for the People against a now much stronger central government, and this occurred later.

The point of a federal system where the central government is stronger than the states in certain regards, is to prevent chaos from arising out of the states passing contradictory laws, attempting to control other states, seceding from the union or going to war with each other.

That last part is significant. The test of the federal system came with the Civil War, when pro-slavery states attempted to use "states' rights" to justify seceding from the union. Many legal pundits today still think that this is a constitutional right. However, whereas a state seceding from a state (West Virginia seceded from Virginia to join the Union during the Civil War) is not unconstitutional, a state seceding from the union is. And via might-makes-right, Abraham Lincoln cemented the role of the federal government through his executive actions leading up to and during the Civil War. Whereas the most obvious effect of the Civil War in our society was to end slavery, that was not the initial reason for it. Here is an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln's letter to Horace Greeley:
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
The whole thing is worth reading. It's short but makes it clear that Abraham Lincoln did hope to end slavery, but that that was not his primary goal in his executive capacity, early on. The primary goal was to do what was his Constitutional obligation as the Executive -- to preserve the Union.

Why am I spending so much time talking about the Federal government? Well, it's because --

if the Central government is stronger than the states in matters of foreign policy and commerce and trade and international agreements and military etc etc etc,

then some states won't, for example, take it into their own hands to deport illegal immigrants (such as Arizona), while others take it into their own hands to refuse to cooperate with Federal immigration enforcement in turning over known criminals (such as the 'sanctuary cities' in California, one of which is San Francisco).

San Francisco has a law that requires officials to ignore Federal requests for cooperation on the subject of illegal immigrants. Rather than turning them over for processing and possible deportation, they are released into the general public.

That is how a man who has been deported 5 times has now ended up in a Sanctuary City, where officials arrested him, ignored a Federal ICE detainment request, and released him back onto the street, where he then murdered a young woman.

It's both the city's fault and the federal government's fault. For one, the city has an unconstitutional law on the books. For two, the Obama administration has had an inconsistent, at best, approach to immigration. They deport some immigrants, but release others from prison onto the streets. They refuse to send personnel to the Arizona-Mexico border, or to in any way secure it, and then sue Arizona for attempting to do what the Constitution requires Washington to do but which Washington won't do. They allow sanctuary cities to operate without any such lawsuits.

If laws regarding immigration were applied evenly across the board, and actually enforced evenly as well, then none of this would be an issue in the first place.

We have a dysfunctional system where the central government won't do its job, and the States are acting more and more like they did in the 1780s and 1850s-60s, as a confederacy where everyone gets to have their own opinion about what laws are important and which ones aren't.

And it gets the people that the government is sworn to protect, killed.

That is injustice. Deportation is not injustice, it is law. When someone who has been deported 5 times and shouldn't be in the country in the first place murders an innocent pedestrian, THAT is injustice.

I'm just glad I don't live near the border. All I can do is watch and opine. I abhor the feeling of helplessness. But feeling helpless when your family and friends are becoming victims of government corruption that encourages lawlessness in your city and state, that is a deplorable feeling.

~ Rak Chazak