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.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Gaysdidit

For a group that makes up such a small percentage of the population, homosexuals wield a shocking amount of power. In addition to all the uncomfortable, tingly feelings Good, God-Fearing People get when they see two people of the same gender in a loving embrace, apparently t3h gayz are also responsible for bringing a vast array of divine punishments down on society's head.

Consider this story out of Liberia, where church leaders have agreed amongst themselves that the outbreak of Ebola is the fault of -- you guessed it -- the gays.
Religious leaders in Liberia are claiming God has unleashed the deadly Ebola virus as a plague upon the country to punish “immoral acts” taking place there, such as homosexuality. 
Various church leaders from the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) reportedly attended a meeting to discuss "an spiritual response" to the outbreak of Ebola, which has claimed 932 lives across West Africa.
It comes as the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced a 90-day state of emergency in the country as she warned "ignorance and poverty, as well as entrenched religious and cultural practices”, are continuing to exacerbate the spread of the disease.
But that's just the tip of the big, gay iceberg, friends. Head below the fold -- if you dare -- to see what other horrors the gays have inflicted on the world.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Told ya so

The World Cup is over -- let the real dog days of summer commence. Before the tournament fades into the mists of time, though, I thought it might be fun to update a previous post.

I said in that post that teams from Concacaf -- the region that encompasses North America, Central America and the Caribbean -- did more with their places in the World Cup than their African or Asian counterparts and thus did not deserve to have World Cup bids taken from them and given to other regions. The events of this year's World Cup did little to shake my confidence in that assertion. Four Concacaf teams qualified for Brazil, with three advancing out of their group and one reaching the quarterfinals. Just two of Africa's five teams reached the last 16, and Asia's four qualifiers combined for a paltry three points between them.

Below are my updated numbers for each region, both for this year's tournament and overall since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998. As a reminder, in an attempt to quantify how much return each region provides for each place it gets at world soccer's biggest event, I added up the points earned by each team from each region during the group stage and divided that total by the number of berths that region received. The idea is that trends in performance should emerge over the span of several World Cups. You can find the breakdown for 1998 through 2010 at the first link.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Well, damn

So, the World Cup. It's 24 hours later and I still can't even. My real-time thoughts say enough.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Entering the hypothetical realm

I hesitate to speak too much about having children, in part because I am mostly ambivalent on the topic and in part because it's an endeavor that requires (at least) two willing parties. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little curious on how that would go -- poorly, more than likely.

That is probably why I spent more time than I normally would mulling over this interactive article from PBS. It's based on the results from the 2010-2014 World Values Survey, in which 82,000 adults across 54 countries were surveyed to gain a better understanding of what they consider most important when raising a child, whether or not they were parents themselves. The respondents were asked to select which of 11 qualities they considered to be especially important for children to learn.

In the PBS article, readers were asked to rank each of the 11 qualities -- determination/perseverance, responsibility, imagination, self-expression, independence, tolerance, unselfishness, thrift, religious faith, obedience and hard work. Their answers were then matched to which country's values most closely corresponded with the reader's.

My list is below.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Another one from the 'Privilege Files'

If embassies and consulates did all the things people believe they do, it might be hard to keep people in their home country. Singapore's foreign minister, K. Shanmugam, recently made a Facebook post in which he detailed some of the stranger requests Singaporeans abroad had made of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While those listed are undoubtedly outliers, it may also betray a certain level of entitlement felt by travelers.
In one instance, Shanmugam said a Singaporean sought Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) intervention "for a refund after he had gotten illegal sexual services in a foreign country".
"He wasn't satisfied with what he had gotten. We had to tell him that MFA could not help!"
Shanmugam said the ministry also declined to intervene when a man demanded an investigation over alleged racial discrimination while overseas.
The man had claimed "he received a smaller piece of KFC chicken compared to what the locals had".
"He wanted MFA to investigate this instance and seek justice in that foreign country for the unfair treatment he claimed to have received," Shanmugam said.
Say what you will about eating at KFC while abroad, but sometimes there's just no other option.

As the bottom of the article suggests, Singapore followed the lead of the UK, which released a similar list a few years ago. It's easy to have a chuckle at the expense of these travelers, of course, but given the sheer number of Americans out there and the vast array of embassies, consulates and missions the country has, there must be just as many – if not more – such requests by Americans abroad.

Odds are we'll never hear those stories, though. After all, that's classified information that could be integral to national security.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

More fun with maps

Following on from an earlier post, I've found a couple more maps that make for interesting reading. Of immediate interest to me are these maps by eCollegeFinder that highlight the most selective and most desirable college by state -- and there isn't as much overlap as you might think.

The map of most desirable schools is fairly straightforward. Big state schools dominate the list, ranked by which four-year colleges receive the most undergraduate applications, with a handful of notable exceptions for private schools. UCLA is by some distance the overall winner (72,676 applications in Fall 2013), followed by New York University, Penn State, Northeastern and Michigan. Of the 50 schools on the map, Alaska-Anchorage received the fewest applications (3,062), with Wyoming, South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Hawaii-Manoa next on the list.


Some of the exceptions to the big state school rule include Tulane (30,122 applications received, 8,357 total undergrads), Washington University in St. Louis (30,117 applicants, 7,259 undergrads), Vanderbilt (31,099 applicants, 6,796 undergrads) and Marquette (23,432 applicants, 8,293 undergrads). The presence of Ivy League schools and BYU on the list is hardly a surprise.

If the law of supply and demand always held true, one might think that desirable schools and selective schools would be a 1:1 ratio. Looking at which school in each state has the lowest acceptance rate, though, some different names pop up on the list.