Friday, October 17, 2014

Off the wagon -- for SCIENCE!

Up until tonight, I had been soda- and caffeine-free for more than three weeks. This return to the wagon, like the others, is equal parts cost-cutting and health kick. Long-time readers of this blog have heard this before, of course, but this time it's part of an attempt to bring a bit more consistency and efficacy to my efforts (see: Board of Accountability posts).

Still, I couldn't help but be curious when I saw this green-colored Coke can at the Lulu Express across the street. It was the latest variety, called Coca-Cola Life, available here in the UAE as an import after being released in the UK in August. While I wasn't in the market for a new soft drink or interested in breaking my new streak, I was inspired to spend 3.95 dirhams (about $1.10) and give it a try after hearing the good folks at Skeptics With a K mention it on a recent episode. (Discussion starts at the 5:00 mark.)

How does it measure up? Head below the fold to find out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Board of Accountability, Week 2

Maybe I should use that last column for word count. In the last 48 hours, I've written about 800 words on Major League Baseball, 1,300 words on Asian soccer players in Europe, 1,200 words on why I can't watch college football anymore, and 800 words on US foreign policy under Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson. My fingers are spent, and it's only Tuesday.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quitting Old State U

College football used to be my No. 1 sport. That's hardly a surprise as I grew up in Nebraska, a state that is something of a Lagrangian point for professional sports. Denver, the Twin Cities, Chicago and Kansas City are all fairly close, but none so close that they can seriously claim Nebraska as "their" territory. That leaves the University of Nebraska -- and specifically Cornhusker football -- to dominate the state's sporting attention.

I used to follow the Huskers with a passion. Going to games was a rare treat growing up -- I went to four or five games as a fan, mostly thanks to a family member who was a season-ticket holder -- but I made sure to catch every game on TV or the radio. (For younger readers, these were the days before every game was on TV and in HD. I know, I'm so old.) Wins were exhilarating and losses were crushing, especially the near-annual, seemingly inevitable defeat to a faster, more talented team from Florida in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska's run from 1993 to 1997, in which they went 60-3 and won three national championships, was spectacular and likely spoiled at least one generation of fans into believing Nebraska should always hold such pride of place in college football.

As I said, though, college football used to be my favorite sport. Now, I barely pay attention to it. What happened? In short -- time, distance, and seeing how the sausage is made.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

This is what happens when you don't vote

Election Day is a month away -- November 4, for all you Americans out there. As this is a year without a presidential election, voter turnout is expected to be more woeful than usual. This is a pity, especially considering all the potential consequences of people having better things to do than the bare minimum expected of citizens in a democracy.

Around this time of year, people start passing around lists -- some reliable, some less so -- of elections decided by small margins, even as small as one vote. The obvious intent is to encourage all eligible voters to go to the polls, lest some undesirable outcome occur. But, hey, seeing as political gridlock is all but inevitable, what's the worst that could happen by not voting?

Examples below the fold....

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I've been visited!

It came to me after I got running a 5k on the treadmill (in pretty decent time, too). This is truly a sign, an omen of good tidings to come.

Pictures below the fold.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some "movement" this is

Some days I wonder if I was too hasty in detaching myself from "movement" skepticism. I still think skepticism is important, after all, and it's introduced me to so many wonderful people. Maybe if I go back slightly less wide-eyed but just as eager to help promote science and critical thinking, things will work out this time.

Then along comes Mark Oppenheimer to write an article that reminds me of all the reasons I walked away in the first place. That reminds me of how blinkered and oafish otherwise intelligent people can be. That reminds me that some privileged white men so enjoy the feeling of intellectual superiority that they would rather revel in mocking those who believe in Bigfoot and reiki than use their critical thinking skills to affect some meaningful change in the world.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thought for the day

One of the more underrated feelings in life is the mix of surprise and dread when someone sums up your situation in a worryingly short span of time. It does tend to definitely puncture any inflated sense of importance you have about yourself or your problems.

The most recent episode of Welcome to Night Vale, one of my favorite podcasts, did that for me. In it, Cecil Baldwin -- the voice of Night Vale community radio -- was summing up the plight of retired Night Vale mayor Pamela Winchell when he struck squarely on the head the feelings I have over my impending departure from newspapers. (It will happen one of these days. Honest! This charade can't go on forever.)

I know I've wrapped up too much of my self-identity in being a Newspaper Guy -- the ennui and alienation I felt during my year of Funemployment brought that home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It's something I need to address before I get out of the industry for good. How? I'm working on that.

Cecil's summation starts at 28:25 in the audio from the first link. A transcript is below the fold.