Friday, March 31, 2017

District of Columbia Resizing

I dislike political arguments that ignore other options. One of them is the argument for granting statehood to the District of Columbia.

The simplest way to re-enfranchise citizens of the District of Columbia is not the creation of a new state. Since that would violate the constitutional requirement that the federal government be separate from the states, it would require a constitutional amendment, which is not an easy process.

The second option is to shrink the District of Columbia to an area that only contains the Capitol, Supreme Court, and White House. The only disenfranchised citizens are now the president and his family, and I think being the Executive branch is an adequate means of having your political voice heard.

But (as I've written before, actually), the SIMPLEST simplest way of fixing this problem is repealing the Organic Act of 1801 which disenfranchised District citizens who previously had been represented by Virginia and Maryland elected officials.

Modern government is like the man who tells his wife the wonky leg of the dining room table can only be repaired if he purchases a new lathe and a laser-guided drill, which--yeah--that's a lot of money, but otherwise the table will never be fixed and it's possible it would collapse during dinner and KILL little Johnny, and why does his wife want little Johnny to die? There's no one saying, "What if we ate at the kitchen table instead?" Or, more aptly, "Why don't you stop making the table leg wonky?"

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Portraying "Good Government Administration"

Yesterday I wrote that the back of the Grover Cleveland-themed $1,000 bill should show "good government administration." I wrote that because that was one of the lasting hallmarks of his two (non-consecutive) administrations. If you want to know just how important a legacy this is, read some about the economics of institutions and reflect on what is happening currently in our return to a politicized bureaucracy that fights the administration from within.

However, even as I wrote it, I thought to myself, "I have no idea what the back of this bill would look like." But I was hoping no one else would notice. I mean, it was the last point in a post that was probably of interest to no one but me (which is the general theme of all my blog posts, actually). Yet, within half an hour, eagle-eyed reader Alanna commented, "Not sure how you portray 'good government administration' on that $1000 bill, though...".

Interestingly, as soon as I read her comment, I could answer the question I couldn't answer to myself before. The image would be one of a diverse group of Americans experiencing "the pursuit of happiness" while above them would be the words of Henry David Thoreau, "That government is best which governs least." Perhaps you might say this is begging the question, since a depiction of "experiencing 'the pursuit of happiness'" has no cultural touchstone. Well, what's more quintessentially American than a block party that required no government permits?

I realized that my brain was basically showing me some artwork I had seen years before. It was a Jehovah's Witness portrayal of the Millennium. (It was memorable because it featured a lion hanging out with a beach ball.) But that's to be expected; the reason Jehovah's Witnesses use that type of diverse-block-party imagery is that it resonates with most of us as a place we would be able to relax and feel peace.

© 2017 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania [I'm not trying to violate their rights, here; I'm pretty sure I'm safe within the "fair use doctrine."]

So that's my answer for how you would show "good government administration" on the back of the $1,000 bill. Secularize it a bit and throw in the Thoreau quote and you're good to go.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dream Money

This would be my ideal set-up for American cash and coin.

First of all, retire the penny, the nickel, and the dollar bill. The penny and nickel experience negative seigniorage, while the dollar bill costs more to create, maintain, and replace than does the dollar coin.

Secondly, remove repeat honorees on money. This frees up space to acknowledge the contributions of women and minorities. There's no reason to have George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln on both a bill and a coin.

Thirdly, introduce some logic to the size of coins. With the penny and nickel out of the way, we can resize the quarter to what the nickel used to be and then resize the half-dollar to what the quarter used to be, creating a system where coins of increasing size are of increasing value. This won't mess with vending machines, because they already recognize coins of these sizes. They would just need a software update to count the coins at their new values. This would also make it so vending machines can now accept half-dollar coins.

Fourthly, switch to non-metal and non-fabric content. Stop making coins that kill dogs when they eat them, and stop making bills that fall apart so easily. This would mean use of aluminum and plastics for coins, and use of polymers for bills.

Fifthly, diversify the size of bills to facilitate distinguishing one denomination from the other. This can be done so that they still fit in wallets and vending machines (at least for smaller bills, but I can't think of the last time I put a $100 bill into a vending machine).

Sixthly, stop trying to prohibit illegal activity through restraints on all commerce. This means creating larger-denomination bills; if you want to stop the drug trade, fix the hopelessness that makes drug use appealing. When the Federales last issued a $10,000 bill (in 1934) for public use, it had the value of $183,000 today. Conversely, reintroducing a $1,000 bill today would allow for the same concentration of purchasing power as carried by $54.67 in 1934. Instead of entertaining asinine ideas to make commerce even more difficult, facilitate commerce and fight crime differently. (Also, create a $200 bill to fill the gap in the current system.)

Seventhly, these are three options I think are nice: use the golden ratio for bills, link the obverse and reverse images better, and introduce some color distinctions, as well.

My final line-up would look like this:

  • Ten-cent coin (18-mm. diameter, same as before): Franklin Roosevelt (obverse) and World War Two victory (reverse)
  • Twenty-five-cent coin (21-mm. diameter, which is currently the size of the nickel): Susan B. Anthony (obverse) and Female Suffrage Movement (reverse)
  • Fifty-cent coin (24-mm. diameter, which is currently the size of the quarter): John F. Kennedy (obverse) and the Moon landing (reverse)
  • One-dollar coin (26.5-mm. diameter, same as before): George Washington (obverse) and the Great Seal of the United States (reverse)
  • Two-dollar bill (66 mm. x 107 mm.): Thomas Jefferson (face) and Declaration of Independence (back)
  • Five-dollar bill (70 mm. x 113 mm.): Abraham Lincoln (face) and Lincoln Memorial (back)
  • Ten-dollar bill (73.5 mm. x 119 mm.): Alexander Hamilton (face) and the Treasury Department (back)
  • Twenty-dollar bill (77 mm. x 125 mm.): Harriet Tubman (face) and Abolitionist Movement (back)
  • Fifty-dollar bill (81 mm. x 131 mm.): Ulysses S. Grant (face) and the Capitol (back)
  • One-hundred-dollar bill (85 mm. x 137 mm.): Benjamin Franklin (face) and Constitution Hall (back)
  • Two-hundred-dollar bill (88.5 mm. x 143 mm.): Rosa Parks (face) and Civil Rights Movement (back)
  • Five-hundred dollar bill (92 mm. x 149 mm.): Dolley Madison (face) and White House (back)
  • One-thousand dollar bill (96 mm. x 155 mm.): Grover Cleveland (face) and good government administration (back)

No bill is longer than the current currency, and the two-dollar bill's height is that of the current currency. The twenty-dollar bill would be 11 mm. taller than it currently is, which is less than half an inch. I'm not sure how difficult it would be to accommodate that in current vending machines.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Presidential Neologism

For some reason when I collected all the neologisms I've coined in this blog's first decade, I failed to include one I'd created just two weeks before: Trump professionalism. Of course, at the time I created both it and its parent term, Trump classy, I had no way of knowing there would one day be a need for a third term: Trump presidentialism. This is when a president thinks he's a paragon of statesmanship when really he's just a yahoo who gets to ride on Marine One.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Police Association Stickers Make the Rest of Us Less Safe

Here in Florida there are a number of people with adhesive badges stuck to their license plates that identify them as affiliated with a police association. Now, I've written before regarding a theory of optimal stranger information. But what if there's more to these police association stickers than just optimal stranger information? What if they are costing me money? What if they are endangering my life?

First: the money angle. These stickers are a form of rent-seeking. Assuming police cannot pull over EVERYone violating traffic law, they must pick among myriad offenders. These stickers are designed to ingratiate the driver with the police, thus reducing the likelihood the driver is stopped. But this increases the scrutiny I will face, since I don't have one of these stickers, and with increased scrutiny comes increased expected value of fines. ("Hey, A Random Stranger, just don't break the law and you'll be fine!" We're well beyond that now, ignoramus.)

Why don't I just get one of these license plate medallions on eBay (one's available now for $38)? Well, besides the fact that, ironically, THEY ARE ACTUALLY ILLEGAL, I'm opposed to the things on principle. The correct response to the growing kleptocracy is to oppose it, not to join it.

Second: the safety angle. Earlier this week, Scott Sumner blogged about a law of conservation of bigotry, which would say that we have a natural human tendency to see things along an in-group/out-group divide and when we break down one sense of the out-group, we have to create a new one to replace it. With the increased media attention to violence targeted at police officers, a growing number of police officers would come to view non-police as members of the out-group. (Think of every criticism of the "black lives matter" movement and ask how they apply to the "blue lives matter" movement.) As bigotry towards the out-group increases, the possibility of using violence against the out-group would increase, as well. Thus, these medallions help create a world where police are protecting themselves and members of their in-group by subjecting us members of the out-group by whatever means necessary.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Found Math Notes

I spent part of Spring Break sorting through boxes of garbage, which means I found these notes I made when I asked myself: what proportions would a paper need to have so that, when folded in half and turned 90 degrees, the proportions remained the same?

The answer is: one-over-the-square-root-of-two to one.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Another Blog Post About Word Pronunciation

Some of you might be aware that I notice words that change pronunciation when they change parts of speech. Blog posts I've written about this can be found here, here, and here.

Well, I found a piece of paper I used to remember some of them, and it has three more I've never blogged about.

PROGRESS: The progress will progress until it stops. The noun has the stress on the first syllable, while the verb has it on the second syllable. Also, some people pronounce the first syllable of the noun with a different vowel noise, more of an "aw."

SUSPECT: I suspect the suspect will be caught. Again, the noun has the stress on the first syllable and the verb doesn't.

ADVOCATE: The advocate will advocate on your behalf. The stress is the same, but the noun has almost a short-I vowel in the final syllable, while the verb has the long-A noise the spelling would indicate.

And along the same lines as "advocate" is SYNDICATE. The syndicate will syndicate the TV episodes.

Finally, I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but now that I'm in my 12th year blogging, I think I have earned the right to repeat myself: there are two word pairs where the change of a letter changes the pronunciation of a different letter. They are: prophesy/prophecy and Nigerian/Nigerien. (A quick search of my blog reveals this is the FOURTH time I've written about prophesy/prophecy, but only the FIRST time I've written about Nigerian/Nigerien.)

Found Quotation While Cleaning

The fact that the ship is sinking is no reason for allowing her to be a floating hell while she still floats.

Well-brought-up people have always regarded the tumbril and the scaffold as places for one's best clothes and best manners.

C.S. Lewis, "De Futilitate," Christian Reflections.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reading Movie Title Cards

This morning, while reading Wodehouse's Meet Mr. Mulliner, I came across this, said by a movie talent scout to one of Mr. Mulliner's nephews:

I want you, and I'm going to get you. And if you think you're going to prevent me, you're trying to stop Niagara with a tennis racket. Boy, you're great! When you register, you register. Your face is as chatty as a board of directors. Say, listen. You know the great thing we folks in the motion-picture industry have got to contend with? The curse of the motion-picture industry is that in every audience there are from six to seven young women with adenoids who will insist on reading out the titles as they are flashed on the screen, filling the rest of the customers with harsh thoughts and dreams of murder. What we're trying to collect is stars that can register so well that titles won't be needed. And, boy, you're the king of them. [pp. 111-2]
This reminded me of when I went to see Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace at Carriage Square Theaters in Orem, Utah.

Carriage Square was one of those second-run theaters with severe maintenance issues. A friend of mine said, "I have never been to a movie at Carriage Square that didn't involve at least one delay." When I saw The Sixth Sense there, the projector broke while Cole is peeing, before the ghost walks past in the hallway. The house lights came up while they worked on the projector. The movie restarted with no warning, house lights still up, just as the ghost enters stage right. It was the least-startling screening of The Sixth Sense ever experienced.

Anyway, when I went to see The Menace of Jar-Jar Binks, the place was packed with poor college students who had probably all seen the film at least once before, but who were eager to see it again at a discounted price. Along with them was one woman there with her pre-K children. When the Star Wars screen crawl began, she leaned across her children and began reading it to them. She wasn't trying to be loud, but she had more than one kid and she had to be heard over top of the film score. For at least one college kid in the audience, it was too much to take. He turned to her and said clearly and loudly, "Shut the hell up!"

To her credit, the woman did not sound like she had adenoids.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Complacency of Lulz Culture

Three years ago I read this article from The Economist which showed the human achievements society has foregone because we were busy watching the music video for "Gangnam Style." Now, one could argue that the rejuvenation we experience after a good "Gangnam Style" refresher makes us more likely to, say, build this millennium's equivalent of the Pyramids, but I doubt that's the way things are going right now. At the end of the week we're no further done with anything major but "Gangnam Style" has a few million more views.

Today a friend of mine re-tweeted this video. It takes 30 seconds to make this point: a set of shoe squeaks in this weekend's Michigan State/Kansas basketball games resembles a segment of the hook in Cypress Hill's song "Insane in the Membrane." The video is even tagged with the label "This Is So Stupid."

What becomes society's set of possible achievements when high school students perfect the flipping of water bottles?

NB: When I first published this, I wrote that the song was House of Pain's "Jump Around." And then I immediately realized I was wrong because my brain was singing the rest of "Insane in the Membrane."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Church Comic

Last week a guy at church told a story about his sister having abdominal surgery, and for some reason the surgeons were unable to sew her back up. It sounded like the sister had permanent access to her internal organs. I'm not sure. Anyway, because I could tell my kids were super grossed out by this story, I drew this comic for them.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Striver or Just Really Poor?

Economist Tyler Cowen has a new book, The Complacent Class. I haven't read it. What I understand from blog posts is that it's about Americans' loss of motivation for improvement.

To help spread exposure to the book, there's a quiz to determine how complacent you are. At the end, you get sorted into one of four categories: trailblazer, striver, comfortable, or complacent. I took the quiz, and it said I was a striver.

Here's the thing, though: many of the answers that make me seem like a striver are really just results of my failures. For instance, the reason I have lived in over five states is because I'm constantly earning subsistence wages. The reason I have visited five foreign countries is because I couldn't support my family in America and we had to go work in China. My "striver" badge is really just a poverty badge.

Maybe that's the real reason for the rise of a complacent class. As Pat Buchanan once said [paraphrasing from memory], "There's something fundamentally wrong with this country that wasn't wrong when we were a much poorer country."

Wives, Nannies, and Perceptions of Racism

Most people are now aware of the BBC interview of political science professor Robert Kelly that was crashed by his children. A woman speeds in the room and pulls the children away. Early commenters guessed at the woman's identity. Some guessed (correctly) wife, and some guessed (incorrectly) nanny. And, of course, what with the civility that pervades the Internet, each side was calm and reasonable about the other side's guess. LOL, j/k, it because a major point of argument.

Is there an argument for guessing the woman is a nanny without necessarily being a racist? Let me point some things out:

  • Prof. Kelly very much appears to be Caucasian in the video.
  • Most children of Caucasians are Caucasian.
  • The video quality being sub-optimal, and his children's race therefore not being obvious, there is room to assume that his children are Caucasian.
  • The video quality being sub-optimal, and the woman only being in the background and trying to be as unobtrusive as possible (and only for eight seconds), I would argue her race is also not obvious. Ladies with dark hair exist in every racial group. I think the assumption that she is Asian (here a correct assumption) is influenced by Prof. Kelly's declared location: Busan, South Korea. If this interview had been happening from, say, Lansing, Michigan, I think an assumption that the woman is Asian is less-supported guess.
Okay, so now we have an (assumed to be) white guy in Korea with (assumed to be) white kids and an (assumed to be) Asian woman who is a caregiver. With this information, we are guessing as to the relationship between the guy and the woman. Is it racist to guess that the woman is a nanny?

I say no, and here's why. How many white guys with kids, in Korea, are married to Korean women? How many white guys with kids, in Korea, have Korean nannies? While obviously both groups have a lot of guys in them, I think the second group is larger. Some white guys are married to Korean women, sure, but some are married to white women. However, I would bet that the number of white guys in Korea with a non-Korean nanny is practically zero, since nannies are more-likely to come from the local population. So whether or not the woman is statistically more likely to be a nanny or a wife depends on likelihood that a white guy with kids, in Korea, has a nanny at all. I see the assumption that the woman is a nanny as based on the assumption that he has a nanny. When I lived in China, I knew white guys with Chinese wives and white guys with white wives, but provided the family had a nanny, it was always a Chinese nanny.

Notice how many assumptions this is all based on. There's a reason they say assuming makes an ass of "u" and ming. But I don't see a racist reason behind the wrong assumption. It would be just as presumptuous to assume she was his wife. "What, only a wife can be in the same house?! Maybe she's a sister, or a friend, or who knows what?! Jeez!" The point is, we all presume lots of stuff, all day long, because information gathering is not costless. Assumptions are only racist if they are made on race-based assumptions. Assuming she's a nanny because, say, white guys aren't attracted to Asian women, or Asian women are less-desirable to have as wives, or whites and Asians shouldn't marry--then THAT would be a racist assumption. But assuming she's a nanny because we're assuming there's a higher probability that a white guy in Korea has an Asian nanny than that he has an Asian wife might be WRONG (I don't know statistics for these groups), and it was wrong in this case even if it does have a higher probability, but it's not a racist assumption.

Personally, what did I assume? When I showed this video to my wife that morning, I said, "A woman comes in the room." My wife said, "Is it his wife?" I said, "I don't know. It could be his wife or a nanny." And for me, the data I needed before I assumed one way or the other, was their ages. If they were of relatively similar ages, I would assume wife, and if they were of quite-distinct ages, I would assume nanny.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Feminism and the Other "F" Word

There are two meanings to the "f" word: one is discussing sexual intercourse, and the other conveys contempt for a person or a thing. The first meaning is given when you tell someone, "I want to f--- you," and the second meaning is given when you tell someone, "F--- you."

Why are we to understand that a word for sex expresses contempt? You're supposed to have affection for your sexual partners, not contempt. There's an element of self-loathing involved in it, basically saying, "If you would take me as a sexual partner you must not be worthy of my esteem."

Why don't we refute the idea that one should have contempt for one's sexual partners? And that would begin by no longer using the "f" word in the second sense. This would seem especially true from a feminist perspective. Feminists who use the "f" word in the second sense are inconsistent, on the one hand supporting female equality but on the other hand continuing the notion of having contempt for the things that we f---.

("But, A Random Stranger, the verb 'to f---' implies no gender!" I disagree; there's a reason that the Blink-182 song "Dammit" includes the line "did you hear he f---ed her" instead of the line "she f---ed him." Most people instinctively feel that the guy is doing the verb.)

Instead of implying that someone having sex with them is the ultimate worst thing that can happen to someone we hate, let's move on to other expressions of contempt that don't have anything to do with sex. My personal favorite is "die in a fire." Very little ambiguity there.

Really FINISHED Finished States

I keep track of the counties I visit. Currently, I've been to 1,774 of America's 3,132 counties (and county-equivalents). I am finished with 15 states. Today I spent some time thinking about which of those states you could say I'm "most" done with.

Map courtesy of the awesome county-gathering website

STATES COMPLETED (15): Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia.

STATES COMPLETED & I'VE VISITED EVERY NEIGHBORING STATE (14): Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia. [Not Nevada, because I have not yet visited Oregon.]

STATES COMPLETED & I'VE VISITED EVERY NEIGHBORING COUNTY (eight): Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia. [Not Kansas, because I'm missing five neighboring counties in Nebraska. Not Kentucky, because I'm missing two neighboring counties in Tennessee. Not Missouri, because I'm missing four neighboring counties in Arkansas and one neighboring county in Oklahoma. Not New Jersey, because I'm missing one neighboring county in New York and one neighboring county in Pennsylvania. Not New Mexico, because I'm missing one neighboring county in Texas. Not Virginia, because I'm missing three neighboring counties in North Carolina.]

STATES COMPLETED & I'VE COMPLETED EVERY NEIGHBORING STATE (zero). [Not Arizona, because I've not completed California. Not Colorado, because I've not completed Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Not Delaware, because I've not completed Pennsylvania. Not Indiana, because I've not completed Illinois and Michigan. Not Maryland, because I've not completed Pennsylvania. Not Ohio, because I've not completed Michigan and Pennsylvania. Not Utah, because I've not completed Idaho and Wyoming. Not West Virginia, because I've not completed Pennsylvania.]

Perhaps of added consideration is which states I've visited not just every county, but also the capitol, the high point, and any Mormon temple. Those are Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. As soon as I complete Pennsylvania, three of them will be completely finished, meaning there's nothing left for me to do in those states or in a surrounding state.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We Used to Just Call This the Howell Freeway

I was reminded of my post about hyper-detailed highway signs when I read this section of the Wikipedia article about Interstate 580 in Nevada.

There was a time we would have just called it King Freeway and Howell Freeway. Time's arrow is hinted at with the way the older naming includes Dr. King's full name but none of his titles ("the reverend doctor"), while the newer naming includes not just Officer Howell's titles ("deputy sheriff"), but also the jurisdiction that employed him.

And don't be a jerk who tries to turn this into "A Random Stranger thinks Officer Howell shouldn't have a freeway named after him!" That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there's a loss of public safety when we decide to post eight-word freeway signs where two-word signs would do, and if we still go around using eight-word signs, we must feel we're getting something else that compensates for the increased danger. I believe that "something else" is anthrotheism.

Songs That Refer to Their Song Properties

I've written before about noticing songs that mention other songs. I also notice songs that refer to properties of the songs themselves. For instance, dot dot dot:

  • "When You Were Young," by The Killers. When singing the line "I know we can make it if we take it slow," Brandon Flowers slows down for the last three words.
  • "Sweet Transvestite," from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When singing the line "I see you shiver with anticipation," Tim Curry stops for a bit in the middle of the word "anticipation."
  • "Thunder Road," by Bruce Springsteen. First, when singing the line "I've got this guitar and I've learned how to make it talk," this is immediately followed by a short guitar riff. Second, when singing the very next line, "My car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk," the word "long" is held for a long time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Great Moments from the Comments Section

Yesterday I read two articles that were good enough that I found myself reading the comments, which is something I almost never do. The first was Charles Murray's assessment of his experience two weeks ago at Middlebury College. In the comment section was this exchange.

That's gold, Jerry. GOLD!

Following the principle that it never rains but it pours, within 24 hours I also read this priceless exchange in the comments section of an article about Israeli-American footballer Kenny Saief's international football career.

This also made me laugh out loud, or "LOL," as some kids are starting to say these days.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Qutting: Good or Bad?

Yesterday I mentioned that I applied Fundamental Truth of Life #4 ("If something is stressing you out, stop doing it") to my Chinese class. But my quitting Chinese could also be related to my winding down all my interpersonal relationships. Which is it?

Probably both. But, if things go for us how I'd like this summer, I have plans to start attending Chinese class again this fall. And to anyone who might care whether or not I have interpersonal connections, that would probably seem like a good thing.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Great Moments in Quitting

Back in 2011, I formalized what I now call Fundamental Truth of Life #4: if something is stressing you out, stop doing it.

Two weeks ago, I quit my Chinese class. If was killing my Mondays and Wednesdays, which should be prime dissertation-writing days. And when I found out that even the Internet-based HSK exams have to be taken in person for some reason, I backed off on my plan to take HSK-2 this summer, since we're uncertain what our financial position will be (making a trip to Miami difficult to justify). I'm still studying Chinese on my own, and I intend to attend classes again in the fall (assuming I'm still at this school in the fall), but for now, I've taken one more step in quitting my way to success.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Singing Hymns

I think our ward chorister made a mistake recently that resulted in our ward singing the same four hymns two weeks in a row. One of the hymns was "Thy Spirit, Lord, Hath Stirred Our Souls."

Now, usually I try to sing without the hymnal. I find having to remember the words makes me actually think about the words more than I otherwise would. But I don't have all the hymns memorized. And, even though it was our second week in a row singing it, I don't yet know the words to "Thy Spirit, Lord, Hath Stirred Our Souls." So I had to make them up.

Thy spirit, Lord, hath stirred our souls:

it's stirred them up real good now.

Not much has stirred our souls this much.

I'm telling you they're super stirred.

How stirred our souls? From one to ten,

it's easily eleven.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

"The Holy Roman Empire Was Neither Holy, Nor Roman, Nor an Empire. Discuss."

My blog is included on an aggregator called Mormon Blogosphere. It's found under the heading "The 'Y' and LDS Student Blogs." I feel like I'm guilty of misleading someone to show up in this group.

I attended BYU for three semesters, which not-coincidentally is the fastest someone can fail out of BYU (Academic Warning, Academic Probation, Academic Dismissal). As for being an LDS student: I guess, sort of. I still have to register for school each semester, but writing a dissertation as you approach 40 years old isn't exactly what people are looking for when they want to read an LDS student blog. ("What ARE they looking for?" I don't know, judgmentalism and super dates? Zing!)

In terms of "life successes," I totally fit in this category, though. I have the young Mormon's business plan down pat (1. Show up. 2. ? 3. Get rich.), and I am constantly telling myself that, six months from now, I'll be totally killing it! But I think most people expect a youth component to an LDS student blog, and no matter how you define it, I'm all out of youth.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Sex and Opinions

Remember when people were all, "It's a shame that Jennifer Lawrence had her privacy invaded when her Apple account was hacked!" and then some people were all, "But she didn't care about her privacy because she took the pictures in the first place!"? That second group of people is a bunch of idiots. Their argument is like saying, "You must not care about modesty because you get naked for a shower EVERY DAY!" Context matters. I don't invite the world in to watch me shower. Jennifer Lawrence should be in control of who sees her naked and when.

And then an entirely different group of idiots were thrown off by Jennifer Lawrence's Vanity Fair photo shoot because she was (gasp!) naked in it. "Look," they said, "she must not care about her modesty after all because she's naked in a publicly-accessible venue." But the problem was never concern for modesty or public access to views of her. It was sovereignty over her body, which sovereignty should reside with her at all times. If you understand why marital rape is a thing, you should be able to understand why Jennifer Lawrence should be able to do full-frontal nudity without undermining her claimed violation of privacy with her Apple account.

Last week, a new group of idiots saw pictures of Emma Watson (also in Vanity Fair, actually) and said, "She's a hypocrite because she's previously said women should be viewed as complete persons and not just as sex objects, but now she's using her attractive body for attention." This isn't hypocrisy, people. A "complete person" INCLUDES a sexual component. Just because she wants it known that she has opinions, she is not arguing that she no longer has breasts. She can have both (opinions and breasts, that is, not just left breast and right breast) at the same time.

Lastly, let it be known that I read all 800 pages of Vanity Fair and there were nowhere NEAR this many nude babes in the version I read. There was a surfeit of satire, but no boobs. Thanks a heap, Thackeray!

Friday, March 03, 2017

Evidence We're Living in a Computer Simulation

I've read a few articles lately that have been making the case that the increasing occurrence of statistically-improbable events is evidence that we're living in a computer simulation. The examples I've seen given are the election of Donald Trump, the outcome of this year's Super Bowl, and now the best-picture fiasco at the Academy Awards.

While I'm sympathetic to the idea that we're living in a simulation (and I can see how this would square with all of my religious beliefs), these are not convincing arguments. These arguments boil down to "it looks like there's a Decision Maker involved." This "Decision Maker" used to be called God, but now that we don't believe in God, we have to call it "superior intelligence that is running our simulation."

Remember what I said about the real-life lessons that can be learned from Jasper Fforde's Global Standard Deity: a God who is increasingly making bare His arm, only to be willfully ignored and called a supernatural computer programmer, is not a placated God.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Social Media Honesty v. Attention Whoring

One of the biggest complaints about how others use social media is that they are fundamentally dishonest with their posting. "Everyone only shares what's good," this complaint goes, "and no one ever shares what's bad, and as a result I feel like a failure because I'm comparing my life to edited versions of my friends' lives."

This complaint is probably second only to the complaint that our friends are being attention whores with posts inviting sympathy.

Make up your minds, people. Either you want your friends to tell you everything or you don't. When a friend has an unending stream of "my life is awesome!" posts, you claim she's fake. When she mixes it up with a few "my life is terrible!" posts, you claim she's an attention whore. What you really want is a friend who posts nothing but reactions to what you've posted. Because you're a narcissist.