Saturday, September 27, 2008
She obviously saw how pathetic I am at first glance and insisted on paying for lunch. Why is it none of my friends ever let me buy? Even strangers I've never met can see it. I didn't even tell her my birthday was impending. Surely, the word "loser" is tattooed on my forehead in ink invisible to my own eyes. Fortunately, some of my guilt was abated due to the fact that the buffet at South Point is quite cheap. I was really impressed with it's quality for less than $10.
Anyway, we discussed our writing projects and other various forms of small talk. Mostly, I am impressed she can accomplish so much while taking care of two young children. I have grown too old and lazy to even contemplate having to deal with children while writing. So good one for her!
It is actually the second time I met with an online acquaintance. A few years ago, when I was in Ireland, I made a quick detour to Scotland to visit a friend that I had done a few online projects with. I got to meet his whole family and even stayed with them for a couple of days. It was a great experience. Both events reaffirm my belief that 99% of the people out there are really kind and generous when they can be.
There was a small downside to the day. Having to use the public transportation was crazy! The buses were not difficult to navigate, but I was traveling under 9 miles. I still had to walk about a mile of that and (including the walk time) it took me over 2 hours to get to the South Point Hotel. Coming back was just under 3 hours and again, I had to walk about a half mile. Paradise road, my road, is a major road, but I couldn't find any routes on it that took me where I needed to go. The result was a lunch that had about 2 hours and 15 minutes of face time taking 7 hours for the round trip. I'm glad the public transportation is not so bad in Albany.
I did get plenty of time to listen to another audio book, Stephen King's, "Cell". Many of his stories are usually simple homages to the 1950's scientific ignorance horrors and this book is no exception. But even though his stories are simple, he does have a knack for creating very well crafted and easily identifiable characters. And readers will forgive a lot of things if the characters are well done. I'm kind of hoping that this is what will sell my story since the over arcing plot moves so slowly due to the political structure that I've built up. We'll see.
Anyway, yesterday was a good day. I was able to meet an interesting person, listen to Stephen King build up some good characters for my own personal critique, and I was able to determine that I can still deal with humans face to face.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Balance is the keyword for this sign, and when it comes to keeping everything on an even keel, a Libra will lead the pack. Peace loving and judicial, this sign abhors being alone. Partnerships are very important for the Libra, especially those on a personal level. With their winning personalities and cooperative style, they aren't apt to be alone for long!
**Balance maybe, but a leader? I kind of try to avoid all that responsibility/politicking nonsense, what with my abhorring being alone and all.
Friends and Family
Fun loving and willing to help out, the Libra makes an excellent friend. Even though they can be late and indecisive, once they're on the scene, they're ready to go. This flexible sign loves to spend time with friends and family and doesn't hesitate to initiate gatherings. Sociable and suave, Librans naturally draw people to them. They have a way of creating a compelling aura of harmony around them. When it comes to challenges, this balancing sign can see both perspectives in a disagreement, making them excellent problem-solvers. Companionable, they're apt to keep their friends and family busy.
**I like to think I'm a good friend. How could they have known that about me? Just like my penchant for being late and indecisive. Assuming we define being late as typically being the first to show up to a party and indecision as trying to wait to pass judgment until all the facts are in. This is actually the cause for my ability to see all sides to an argument, not the balancing sign that creates my compelling aura. Does my companionability keep my family and friends busy? Must be all that sociable suaveness.
Career and Money
Harmony is the keyword for this sign. For the Libra, maintaining this is of the utmost importance. They can be excellent leaders and will work hard to earn and deserve the privilege. Truth and justice always prevail for Librans as they go about their days. Working with others or in a partnership is ideal for this social sign. Artistic and persuasive, these folks are gifted talkers who do well in any position that provides a platform for them to chat.
**I thought the key word was balance? I read this paragraph three times. It doesn't say anything until the last sentence. I am not artistic in the traditional sense. My sister is though. Is that close enough? She's not a Libra. Will that be a problem?
Persuasive, maybe, but I don't really choose to alter people's opinions. I offer mine when asked. Sometimes, when I'm not asked.
Careers that involve justice such as police officer, lawyer, or judge are excellent choices for Libra. They will also succeed at such occupations as diplomat, civil servant, interior decorator, composer, and fashion designer. Group settings pose no challenge for Librans - in fact, the more the merrier. Their strong sense of diplomacy serves well in almost anything they do.
**Mmm'kay... Did most of that paragraph sound really gay? Or is it just me.
If you go shopping with a Libra, best to plan some extra time! This sign can be terribly indecisive when it comes to purchasing. Balancing their money, however, is a snap for Libra. Keeping a good balance between savings and spending money is a real talent for these folks. Their love of fashion and housewares can see them out and about in stores quite often. One of Libra's favorite pastimes is to shop for someone special.
**If you cut out everything but the third sentence and make it a little more concise, like, "Hoarding money and not spending a dime is a real talent for these folks." Then they've nailed it. This passage was definitely gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Love and Sex
Finding the right partner will be a priority in the Libra's life. For those already in a relationship, maintaining the peace and harmony takes center stage. A Libra alone is a sad thing indeed, not to mention unnatural. They need to connect with others. As lovers they are expressive, creative, and balanced. They love to make their partners feel completely and thoroughly satisfied from conversation to lovemaking. Librans' charm and dedication to striking the perfect balance with others makes them wonderful partners.
**Oh this is soooo true.
Each sign has a part of the anatomy attached to it, making this the area of the body that is most sensitive to stimulation. The anatomical areas for Libra are the kidneys, lower back, adrenal glands, and appendix.
**My appendix is an erogenous zone? Isn't it useless until stimulated and then it tries to kill you?
The ruling planet for Libra is Venus. This planet's action is gentle and harmonious. It governs beauty, charm, emotional contacts, possessions, unions of all kinds, singing, art, culture, sweets and sugar, and moral character.
**You know I have to admit. I've always felt a real connection with that planet, and not just from it's gravitational pull.
The color of choice for Libra is blue.
Libra's star stone is the sapphire.
**I didn't get to choose this...
Libra's lucky numbers are 1, 2, and 7.
**Close, 52 and 212.
Librans are most compatible with Aquarius and Gemini.
**It's so hard to keep track with all the partners I have trampling in and out my door.
The opposite sign for Libra is Aries.
**This is obviously true.
The Perfect Gift
The best gifts for a Libra are music and items that create relaxation.
**Is that code for porn? Because officially, I deny that porn is the best gift.
Pleasant conversation, beauty, balance, fairness, romance
**Doesn't everyone kind of like these things? Why isn't masturbation on the list? Everybody likes that too.
Being treated unfairly, ugly places, rough people, making a final decision
**I don't know. I'm kind of into ugly places with rough people, but definitely not rough places with ugly people.
Natural sign of the Seventh House. This house focuses on marriage, partnerships, public relations, open enemies, and other people.
Will Smith, Gwen Stefani, Matt Damon, Eminem, Sting, Viggo Moretensen
**I so don't care, but in an equitable, balanced, scales of justice kind of don't care.
Best travel destinations
Tibet, Japan, Burma, Austria, Johannesburg, Copenhagen, Vienna
**I'll take lists created by monkeys throwing darts at an atlas, for one thousand Alex.
Social, fair-minded, cooperative, diplomatic, gracious
**Phew! And I thought they'd just give me a list of things everyone likes to hear about themselves.
Indecisive, will carry a grudge, avoids confrontations, self-pity
**Indecisive? I don't know...
**I'll carry a grudge, but only for a medium length of time, say 1-3 years. I don't forgive quickly, but I don't internalize it forever. So I guess that one's true!
**Avoids confrontations? Hmmm, I guess I only do it when I have to. I don't let them impede my life in any way. Is that avoiding them? I would rephrase it as I don't go looking for confrontation. I'll let you decide.
**Self-pity? Now they're just not following the rules. They've got to be smoking something and Mrs. Manners always says it's puff, puff, pass in a social setting.
Attractive, graceful, medium build, no sharp features
**For the record, I sanded down my sharp features one night while venting my teenage angst. As for the others, they must not be ready to pass just yet.
Any place that is beautiful where the company is harmonious. Very social and happiest doing things in the company of another.
**Where all the little children have gumdrop smiles as they frolic next to a river of chocolate.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Charles claimed that the current situation is due to the banks being forced by the government to lend money to poor people who would not ordinarily qualify for mortgage loans. As a result, it was governmental interference which caused the problem and the government should have stayed out of it. I told him I would look into it because I had never heard anything about it. He called me a liar (without actually using those words) in regards to my promise to look into it.
Anyway, this post is my response to his criticisms. First, I should remind people that I am neither a Democrat, nor a Republican as I feel both organizations are two halves of the same coin. So I don't blame one side or the other for deregulation. It has primarily occurred under Republican Presidencies, but this is due to the fact that the deregulation process has dominated the political scene over the last 28 years and Republicans have controlled the Oval office 20 of the last 28 years. Deregulation is, however, a cornerstone to conservative thinking, but both democrats and Republicans vote the nonsense through. This is why they are two halves of the same coin. (It's a matter of looking at actions and ignoring their words.)
Second, Charles also has an unfortunate habit of doing what most people do (even myself) of oversimplifying and blaming one or two key points for a problem. In reality, problems, especially economic ones, have much more complicated causes. Many factors contributed to the recent hiccup. I know, everyone's thinking, "Gosh golly Patrick, you're trying to blame deregulation, a single issue, as the cause." Admittedly, it looks that way, but deregulation is a rather broad excuse. If anything, people should say I am not being specific enough when I point to it as a cause.
Now, as for Charles's criticisms, I couldn't find any info directly relating to government agencies forcing lending institutions to make loans to low income individuals, but that doesn't mean it's not out there. It probably is, alas, the internet is a big cesspool of information and if you don't get your search criteria just right, you may not find the information you're looking for, or it may not land in the first three pages of search results. Who really goes any further?
So for the sake of this discussion, I'll assume Charles is correct and there were governmental influences in lending to low income crowd. It would not surprise me since the government made a big push to encourage people to keep spending after 9-11, despite all the accounting scandals that were going on at the time and getting pushed to page 12 because of the terrorist attack. Incredibly bad advice in my opinion. Telling people to go out, spend money, and pretend the economy is okay to show those dang terrorists that they can't beat our way of life, when at that very moment our economy was in a pretty serious down swing. Only a politician (or Texan?) could come up with bullshit like that, but I digress.
Naturally, forced lending to the poor are not the only influences on banking procedures. Here is a good article from the Motley Fool (an investment advisor website) entitled, "The Financial Crash in Plain English", by Cliff D'Arcy.
I'll summarize the article: The low interest rates gave banks the prime opportunity to take more risks in their lending practices and they gave out loans to higher risk people (Note it says nothing about being forced to do so by the government). Banks then took these loans and created bonds and other derivative instruments (a security that "derives" its value from another source) and sold them off to other banks and insurers after giving them a stamp of approval as a highly rated security.
The article doesn't mention derivative securities, as they are a bit of a mystery that neither Charles nor I fully understand. The article does mention the banks waving a magic wand to create them. When I get to my argument, we'll see why they're a deregulation problem.
The article also fails to mention the rise in the interest rates and only mentions a decrease in housing values. This is a serious omission in my opinion because these low interest mortgages weren't fixed rate mortgages. They were variable rate mortgages and when the interest rates went up, so many people that were "on the bubble" had been given loans they could no longer afford. Couple that with the drop in house prices that the article does mention and you have people defaulting on loans for property that is not worth the amount of the loan or at least not the proper "industry standard" in terms of the percentage of the loan.
Eventually, investors realize they have been duped. The shitload of bad loans winds up hampering the lending ability of many institutions and a credit crunch starts beginning last fall (about a year ago) and is evidenced by a decrease in loans being made between banks. In short, they don't trust the solvency of each other. Over the last year, housing prices have slipped further and more loans have been going bad. The article actually goes through and lists all the companies that started failing because of this decline starting with a UK company last September, through Fannie Mae, et al this spring, and on up to the present. (Basically, this shows the problem is not restricted to just the U.S. and gives me further cause to doubt Charles's claims that government involvement caused all this.)
After that, the article goes on to speak to the investor and what all this means to them. Knock yourself out. It's not germane to this discussion.
Okay, so far we have Charles's hypothesis that is not terribly supported by a professional , but as I also pointed out, Mr. D'Arcy picks his battles in over simplification and doesn't get into other details I felt were important, so I still can't disregard Charles's claims altogether, but I don't think I can agree that government regulation caused the problem. It's clear greed had much more to do with it. What a surprise!
Now I'll get into my deregulation argument as the primary cause. A tedious task no doubt, but when I get into these types of discussions I am forced to actually look up the names of these things, so I guess this is good practice at reinvigorating my knowledge base. Start with this article, The Long Demise of Glass-Steagall. It's not so much an article as it is a timeline of the primary regulations set into place after the Great Depression to aid in avoiding another Great Depression. The law was called the Glass-Steagall Act. I'll use highlights from this to prove my point. I could use more resources, but I'm already getting sick of writing this, no doubt you are getting sick of reading.
We start in 1933 with this act, according to the article, the legislation sought "to limit the conflicts of interest created when commercial banks are permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds." This legislation forced "banks to choose between being a simple lender or an underwriter (brokerage)." An underwriter is a company that assesses risk on investments. Hopefully, you can already see where I'm going with this based on my earlier comment.
The law is actually strengthened in 1956, not much happens in the '60s and 70's, but banks and brokerage firms begin their lobbying attempts to get Congress to relax the law. That appears to not have worked out so well, so in 1986 & 87, the Fed steps in and "reinterprets" some key passages that allow banks to start acting as brokerages, but limits them to 5% income on such matters. (The first signs of deregulation!)
The law is loosened to a 10% limit in 1990.
In '91 and again in '95 legislation is nearly passed to repeal Glass-Stegall altogether.
In '96 & '97 the Fed raises the underwriting limit to 25% of the institutions income. (According to the article this renders the Glass-Steagall Act obsolete as "Virtually any bank holding company wanting to engage in securities business would be able to stay under the 25 percent limit on revenue." I don't personally know enough about financial markets to make this assessment. I'll leave that determination up to the reader. I can say that that is, obviously, a rather significant percentage of a company's income. Certainly enough to get banks interested in the practice.)
In 1999: "After 12 attempts in 25 years, Congress finally repeals Glass-Steagall, rewarding financial companies for more than 20 years and $300 million worth of lobbying efforts. Supporters hail the change as the long-overdue demise of a Depression-era relic." (A law signed by Clinton! And nobody believes me when I call him a snake. But again, deregulation is not a Democrat versus Republican issue.)
The timeline stops there, but let's recap with what was said above.
Banks started bundling their bad loans together into bonds and other magical derivative instruments. They then used their underwriting priveledges to over assess their value and pawned them off onto other institutions. A priveledge obtained through the deregulation of the laws put in place just after the first great stock market crash of 1929. Laws that were made to prevent this very circumstance.
Thus, we had the laws in place to keep this EXACT thing from happening and they were deregulated out of existence throughout the '80s and '90s. So how exactly is the current problem not due to deregulation? Given these facts, there is no way anyone can claim deregulation is not to blame.
I made some comments last post about the economic collapse last week, so I decided to say something more than, "I told you so." What disgusts me is the governmental buyout of the problem. The conservative government deregulates these markets duping the common people into believing that less government is better, even though these deregulations have no effect on them. Deregulation is for corporations. Now these corporations have no oversight and are allowed to use their "greedy algorithms" (I put that in quotes because I'm analogously using the math term in that they take what they can at each step while relinquishing the least, not the mundane use of greed). This can only work for so long before things collapse. For businesses to succeed long term they have to give back. They have to invest and build for the long term, not be concerned only with what's going to happen in the next 3-4 quarters.
Those regulations were in place for a reason!
Deregulation is just another term for the trickle down economics of the '80s. In fact, that's where the modern use of the term originates from. Didn't we learn back then that economic bliss never trickles down to those that need it? Back then the news media outlets were deregulated and look where they are now? Why they even bother to hide their biases at this point is beyond me. The last thirty years they've ceased to be about news delivery and have become a spin machine.
Hello! McFly! What shall we deregulate next?
I know. How about the food industry? That way people can eat unclean food and die from various forms of food poisoning. In short, we can just eliminate the people rather than just ruin their economic future. CEO's don't seem to be doing too badly for their poor handling of their businesses. Sadly, there's not enough money in the food industry to bother deregulating.
So what's the government going to do when these irresponsible actions "trickle down" and finally start bankrupting the common man? We're getting closer. In the U.S., More than 1.6 million bankruptcies occur every year. That's 1 person in every 188. Is the government going to bail them out? Did they act any less responsible than than AIG?
Too bad the '80s excessive fissuring of the middle class makes these people so economically unimportant. Maybe then, the government would actually take care of them. And before anyone starts ragging on this lower middle class as being uneducated and lazy, I would like to point out that me, most of my family, and a rather large portion of my friends belongs to this class. The rest of my family isn't nearly as lackadaisical about money as I am. We're living proof that trickle down economics doesn't trickle down far enough. You can't realistically give all the breaks to corporations since their goal is not to pass down the wealth, it is to create their own wealth as efficiently as possible.
A byproduct of this "efficiency" is the mandatory depression layoffs to "tighten the ship". Naturally, this makes the overall economy worse. If they want the economy to recover faster, they should be keeping these people employed so that the consumers in the area will be capable of consuming. The government should be working with these corporations to keep these people employed, not giving them tax breaks so that their margins remain the same. (Economic margins refers to a "rate" of profit/sales/etc. A calculus concept that drives too many business decisions, so it does have its uses!)
To date the argument has been that the government gives the tax breaks, they can't force the businesses to run their companies one way or another. To which I say, "Why not?" If a business wants a tax break, we shouldn't sit around and hope the corporations do the right thing, we should require it.
OH NO! It's more regulation! More government's bad! So says the media spin machine. I think I'll use my common sense rather than listen to their corporate biased deregulated asses.
I received an email from my adviser yesterday encouraging me to call. I plan to do that this morning. Hopefully, he'll still give me a recommendation for my teaching, though he's never actually seen me teach. Such are the idiosyncrasies of references.
The people who have actually seen me teach are students and unworthy of giving me a recommendation. At SUNY Albany the grad students pulled together and helped each other with our teaching duties, so a number of my peers are familiar with my style and efforts and know that I was every bit as good at teaching as I was my research, but they are pretty new in the field and their recommendations would hold less weight than my advisers. References are indeed a strange game.
Maybe I should learn Turkish and look for a job overseas. I have become increasingly more disgusted with the actions of my government, maybe it's time to check out other alternatives. Too bad I'm not very good at learning foreign languages. It doesn't seem to be my forte. For a while, I looked into learning Russian at the prospect of going to Moscow and maybe getting a teaching job there for a year. My adviser talked me out of it. He said things were so bad for their professors, most of them had part time jobs to supplement their income because schools paid their teachers so little. Needless to say, I wasn't interested in teaching in a foreign country where I would have to pick up a job at McDonald's so that I could eak out a living. What's even more sad, is that a job at McDonald's in this country isn't enough to even eak out a living.
I guess I am heading down that road of discussing the economy. I've been saying for just over 18 months now that our economy is even more dire than most people even realize. I guess after last week's down turn in the markets, I can finally say, I told you so. I'll discuss more in my next post.
I have been meaning to work more on my teaching portfolio but have been unmotivated up until now. Today, I feel much more enthusiastic about the process so I guess I just needed a good week off. Too bad, I'll be getting another week off next week. Well, I guess that's not bad. I'm looking forward to being around people again, but I will need to make up the time in some way or another.
After partaking in an act of seclusion for the last six months, I can understand why people eventually get skittish about going outside. I honestly feel I have lost a bit of confidence in dealing with people. It's hard to explain, but if someone was even slightly agoraphobic and spent six months closed up as much as I have, I can see why they would become nearly housebound permanently.
I'm not sure I can explain it properly without more thought. Maybe not even then. It is an interesting phenomenon. I look forward to next week's road trip if only to see if I have become agoraphobic myself. I've never had a panic attack. Actually, with my ability to insulate different aspects of my life, I've never been overly susceptible to anxiety at all. The last time I had serious feelings of anxiety were when the restaurant was failing 13 years ago. I guess that was a point of extreme economic crunch not unlike what is impending for myself now. Maybe that's what I'm feeling.
I guess I'll find out soon enough!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Why you ask? It's kind of a hypocrite thing. Academics like people to think that they are supportive of everyone following their own dreams for their own sake, but in reality, academics are two things:
First, they are constantly fighting to justify their own existence. It's not sufficient to go through the educational process, you have to continuously prove yourself to your peers that you can still do the work.
This, kind of, conflicts with the second thing. As my adviser put it, academics are writers, not readers. Most of that academic crap that gets written, goes unread. If thirty people read your work in the first year, you are impressive.
Thus, the goal of academia is to prove to your peers, who are not reading your work, that you are smart. Meanwhile, your peers are doing work to impress you and the rest of the peers and none of you are reading that work. This is what my adviser means by academics being writers and not readers. All this work is being written and no ones out there reading it.
This is a sad state of affairs for academia because they have disassociated themselves so much from the common folk, that their work is incomprehensible to the average person. This is particularly bad for mathematics and most of the other hard sciences. There was a time when you could discuss the work of a scientist with the average person and they could be made to understand with minor clarifications. Today, science is so technical and has developed its own vernacular that literally it has become a foreign language to the layman. In mathematics, there are some easily stated problems that any ten old child can comprehend, but the proof is so complex and far reaching, maybe two or three dozen people in the entire world can understand why the statement is true.
This creates a chasm between academics and laymen. (This is where I tie things back to my situation.) Dreams are for laymen. Science is for scientists. I followed a dream, and It's going to cost me in my academic career. More specifically, as an academic, I should have had more noble goals with my education that fulfilling a childhood fantasy. Worse yet, my fantasy to write genre fiction barely utilizes my scientific background, so it is viewed as me turning my back on the academic community.
Naturally, not all academics think like this. And if you pulled them aside one by one, they would look at these words as though I were some sort of wacko chastising the community, but putting the entire community together with their prejudices and snobberies and it does turn into the truth. Especially if they don't know me personally. It is easy to create a prejudice about a person you have not really met, and in terms of me getting an academic job, if it comes down to me, the crazy guy, against the person who has followed the proper and correct academic path, who would you hire?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Okay, now that you have that out of the way. What do you think? Do you think the world's going to end? Well, the collider is online by now, so obviously the world isn't going to end. I posted this article as a demonstration of precisely what is wrong with news today. The point of checking a news outlet is so that the populace can know what is going on around the world.
What should we expect from the news? In my opinion, it should be a presentation of facts and not an attempt at drama. Of course, we're all people and we all have opinions and writer's are going put their biases in their news reports. I ask you what are the biases of this Mike Zazaian based on this article? What were your initial impressions of the article aside from the fact that he and his editor let a misspelling of the word "discrepencies" get past themselves, and of course, he uses the word "disasterous" twice.
Is that even a word? I'll give you a hint: No.
Of course, that's just my being picky about the lack of technical professionalism in the article and we're here to discuss the biases of the article. Why am I concerned with this? Obviously, because the article is stupid and treats you as though you're stupid. Granted, 95% of the people reading the article probably are stupid and take the it at face value, but that's another post altogether. Fortunately, my friends are not, and I can gripe with them here.
Anyway, I've already let it slip that I think the writer is solely going for an overly dramatic story. It is possible he thinks a story about a new supercollider is boring and he feels the need to spice it up. Honestly, supercolliders are boring. If you're not an egghead physicists into the very most up to date research, it's never going to affect you. Sorry, to disappoint everyone. It's the truth. Nothing this machine will ever do will ever affect anyone you know.
So what issues do I have with this article? Let's start with the beginning. It's in bold; it grabs our attention and such. It promises, "physicists express concern", and based on the title of the article, "World's Largest Supercollider Could Destroy the Universe", I can only assume that physicists are concerned that their work could destroy the universe.
However, let's take a closer look at the article. There are two quotes. The first is a press release from CERN that tells us what we don't know about the universe. Gee, what a surprise that we don't know everything about the universe. In a nutshell, this is why physicists want to perform these experiments with these big expensive machines, I'm glad the author reaffirmed this for us all. As I said, most people are stupid and need to be reminded that there are still mysteries in the universe. You know, like Bigfoot and Chupacabra.
Anyway, I'm still worried here. Our universe might end. So I read on to the second quote, where, AHHHHH! We get our promises of the title fulfilled and this Ran Livneh person tells us that some wacky shit might happen and we could all die.
OH NO! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!
What ever are we going to do?
But we pause, and we all say in unison, "Wait a minute. I was promised physicists were going to tell me the universe is going to end." (We all said that right?)
This Ran Livneh person is a software developer, not a physicist. Who is this person to tell us what any physicists would say? If this is true, how come Mike Zazaian isn't quoting a physicist?
Okay, I'll ruin the magic. It's because any physicist worth their salt will say that there is no chance that mini-big bangs and micro blackholes are going to get out of control and destroy the universe in a supercollider.
Sorry, I know it's not a very interesting story if we don't jazz it up a bit, but even a person as ignorant as me about physics (which I guess, isn't ignorant compared to the average person, but I am pretty ignorant as far as physicists go I assure you) knows that the energy of the collisions within a supercollider are so small compared to what goes on near a black hole or what went on during the big bang, it's not even going to register on the universe's radar. In fact, these collisons will probably be orders of magnitudes smaller than what goes on in the upper atmosphere of the earth from the radiation of the sun, so why is Mike Zazaian writing this article?
We all know why. Because Journalism is dead. It's all about wowing the reader. Getting them psyched up about reading the article, no matter how dumb it has to be made to do it. Journalism isn't about presenting information. There's little educational value in an article because the journalist generally has no idea what it is they are reporting on and has to jazz it up so apathetic readers like themselves can stay awake through the entire article.
Journalism is about entertainment and we all know sex and death sell. If only Mr. Zazaian could have made the supercollider sexy. I may not have noticed how dumb his article really was.
After looking through the site for a bit, I noticed quite a few of the articles were written by Mr. Zazaian and the site hasn't posted anything in over a year and a half. I suspect the site was a project of his and either he or it or both burned out. I was pretty tough on him in my criticisms, but I also feel that people need to be quite a bit more critical about what they're reading. I just happened to pick this article because it rated highly in my search. A lot of people get sucked into reading schlock with such titles. I read it because I knew from the title it would make good critical fodder. I had no idea it was such a cornucopia at the time.
Hopefully, within the next year and a half people will read this blog post and learn a little something about reading into the stuff they are reading.
Make sure you read this article before reading the post entitled, "Mike Zazaian, Are You For Real?".
Title: "World's Largest Supercollider Could Destroy the Universe"
As the Cernier company prepares to test the world’s largest supercollider physicists express concern that too much is being left to chance.
The Cernier Company or CERN, the world’s largest physics research firm, is currently in the process of building what would be the world’s largest working supercollider. Known as “Large Hadron Collider,” or LHC, the device is 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) long and resides in a tunnel approximately 100 meters beneath the Franco-Swiss border, just outside of Geneva.
By accelerating protons toward each other at 99.999999% the speed of light the LHC can recreate conditions similar to those that resulted from the Big Bang, ultimately alighting a great deal about the particles and forces that comprise our Universe. A press release from CERN better illuminates their intent for the project:…Our current understanding of the Universe is incomplete. We have seen that the theory we use, the Standard Model, leaves many unsolved questions. Among them, the reason why elementary particles have mass, and why are their masses different is the most perplexing one. It is remarkable that such a familiar concept is so poorly understood.
LHC functions by accelerating two counter-rotating beams of protons toward each other at high speeds. By cooling magnets to near absolute zero (-273 degrees celcius) with an enormous cryogenics system, the LHC can move particles toward each other at speeds only one millionth of a percent away from the speed of light.
And while Physicists have the logistics of the LHC well in hand ideas about its outcome are strictly theoretical. According to one scenario tiny black holes could be produced which hopefully would decay into what is known as Hawking radiation (the tinier the black hole, the faster it evaporates). If these black holes fail to decay, however, the consequences could be disasterous. CERN software developer Ran Livneh has expressed some concerns about the project:This physical realm is unknown, and dangerous phenomena might arise…Any physicist will tell you that there is no way to prove that generated black holes will decay. The consequences of being mistaken are unfathomable. This subject deserves serious unbiased discussion.
Despite these theoretical discrepencies the LHC project will continue as scheduled toward its launch in 2007. Mankind has never progressed itself due to fear of the unknown. Although the results of the Large Hadron Collider could potentially be disasterous, the intellectual consequences of not conducting the experiment could be equally so.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
After that, I decided to get for a bit. I walked down to the Monte Carlo and back. There's nothing special about that particular casino, I just opted to go the bathroom in there and turned for home when I left. It was a nice three hour walk.
While on this walk I started listening to Book Three: Destruction, by J.C. Hutchins. It was the first time I've used my .mp3 player, well second really. I've only had it about a week and I need to get more comfortable ear plugs for it. The ones that come with the gizmo have buds that are too big for my ear. In fact, I can't imagine they aren't too big for most people's ears. I can understand shipping cheap ear buds, It's an expensive accessory they can bleed you for later, but there has to be stuff out there equally cheap that is usable by more people. I guess they'd fear that too many like me would just live with the cheap stuff. Oh well.
I've also decided to give up caffeine for a few weeks. I've been using it too much lately and it's time to kick it for a while. Just in time, I can nap for the weekend. I guess that's it for now. I'm going to get back to listening to my book.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I had hoped to keep the second draft of part one to three chapters totaling about 15,000 words, but with the project being serialized, it seems to present itself a little better as four chapters. This is because it is best if a chapter ends with a climax to a situation or a small cliffhanger of sorts, so I felt compelled to break up chapter 3 into two smaller chapters. I am also going to go over my word limit, but not enough to be of a concern, maybe 17 or 18 thousand words. It is the first part of the series after all and some things need explanation that won't be needed later.
I guess my readjusted goals are to finish chapter four tomorrow. Do a quick edit of the four chapters on Saturday, maybe on into Sunday and then ship it off to Cullen. I guess I'll get to see what he'll let me get away with in a couple weeks. Literally, I will be able to physically see him, so he can rap me on the noggin for the stupid parts.
What do I mean by that?
Kim has offered to buy me a plane ticket to Albany for my birthday. (Despite my requests for no presents.) The timing was a little too good to pass up seeing as I will be at a down point in my writing, and an upswing in my job hunting efforts. It'll be good to head onto SUNY's campus for an afternoon to hit up some of my old teacher's for recommendations in person. (Actually, I'll email them in advance, but whatever, I'll still visit. Gotta do the whole pollyticking and kiss ass thingy.)
Of course, more importantly, I'll get the opportunity to visit all my friends in Albany that I've missed. I know, from time to time, I get cheesy and talk about how wonderful my friends are and how I wouldn't be where I am without them. And I don't mean just my friends in Albany. I mean all of them, and my family too.
Cheesy or not, it's true. All the way on the other side of the country, they've been the driving force I've needed to keep myself going during this project. They've been so supportive, not doing my best and not managing to accomplish as much as I have, would not have been a failure to just myself. I would have failed all of them as well.
Sadly, I bring myself to tears when I write about such things. Not as bad as when I wrote that letter to Vicki and her husband about what a terrible friend I am and then attached it to their wedding gift. I think I was at my worst for that one. I actually had to stop and finish a few hours later. I'm such a softy when it comes to my friends.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
If you could live in a different time period of the past, what would it be?
Rather than explaining that the proper phrasing should be, "when would it be?" I responded with the following:
I like the present just fine. I wouldn't want to live in the past where a nick on the face while shaving could wind up becoming infected, thus causing your own death.
Seriously, this was not uncommon before the inventing of antibiotics just last century!
There is little nostalgia in the past. People don't seem to think about how tough times were back then compared to now. It was not a simpler time.
If anything, I'd want to go to the future. Who doesn't want to see if mankind can solve the Riemann Hypothesis before we destroy ourselves?
I left my response at that, but I could have gone on and on. I have never been able to figure out this desire people have for going back in time. They act like the old west, was Little House on the Prairie. People ought to be thankful that wasn't filmed in authentic smell-o-vision because a one room log cabin with a dirt floor occupied by 5 or 6 people who do not bathe every day is just not going to smell like a bouquet of flowers, no matter how loving and caring they pretend to be.
Modern people would enjoy that nonsense for about one day. After they realize they have to go to bed once it's dark out because there's no electricity and you can't always afford candles and oil for lamps, much less stay up late to watch whatever flick is on the idiot box, they'd be longing for their creature comforts. I'm not even going to discuss outhouses and the historic uses for the Sears, Roebuck catalog.
What exactly is the allure of "the old days"? Pick any time in history prior to 1950 (chosen rather arbitrarily since most people romanticize time periods well before their own lifetimes) and try to convince me that those days were better?
Sorry, the power of prayer didn't do anything back then to help a person's health any more than it does now. I'll stick with modern medicine and all it's flaws thank you very much.
My sister claims that buying Cottonelle toilet paper is a form of pampering oneself and the fact that I buy the rather efficient Scott brand with a 1000 sheets per roll is a sign that I don't know how to pamper myself. I disagree. I pamper myself just fine. I mean look at me, I'm over indulgence personified. It's just when I decide I'm going to pamper myself, I don't start with my asshole. Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. I'd like to see her make that same argument in the days before the Sears, Roebuck catalog. (Oops! I guess I did get into it.)
I got great idea! Why don't we strap our fat asses to a horse and take a quick ride to the next town over and back. It shouldn't take much more than the whole day! Sounds romantic to me.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I've been careful to listen to the presentation and such while at the same time I've been paying attention to the actual story elements. Essentially, I've been trying to make sure the backbone of my own story holds up. I think it should be fine.
In my last post, I said something about having had to make an effort to find things to do last week. I failed to mention that I did read two books, but they were for enjoyment. The stories were light and much ado about nothing. Just the type of brain rotting candy I was looking for. Alas, I have still not read through, The Scar by China Mieville. I said something about the book a couple of months ago, but haven't made it past page 38. I'm not sure why I am finding this book so much harder to stick with compared to the first one. (That's another "book two" reference by the way. Just in case you missed it.)
I haven't mentioned the weather in some time, but you'll see why I'm mentioning it now in a couple paragraphs. I had been hoping the hot weather would start to break, but it has not. Daily highs are still in the 100-105 range and the overnight lows about 80-85. A few times it has slipped into the upper '70s.
Today it rained. One of those big cooling rains. It's about 80 right now and it is only 7pm. I have my fan sitting in my foxhole (I can't seem to bring myself to call an exit that lies underground, so that my chest height is at true ground level, a balcony) blowing in fresh air. It's a nice change from all that air conditioning.
I am curious to see if my nose manages to make the final adjustment. My nasal passages just don't seem to be able to take this dry air and I get minor nose bleeds every day. I was hoping after six months I would have gotten used to it, and it would have gone away, but it hasn't. I am constantly blowing blood out of my nose. I know what is going on biologically and it's nothing to worry about, but it is getting annoying. It also tells me that I probably wouldn't be able to live out here indefinitely. If it's annoying me after six months, it'll probably drive me insane after a few years. Or maybe I just have to wait for more temperate weather.
Alrighty then, I guess I'll get back to listening to the podiobook and finish preparing my next set of stuff to be mailed out. It's getting close to that time again.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Okay, so the title is originally take from a show called This Week in Baseball and they had a segment called TWIB notes. I didn't figure anyone would get the reference. Maybe Matt or Cullen...
It took about 5 days for Kim to post a comment about my lack of blogging. I knew it'd be less than a week, but was unsure exactly how long it would take her. Now I know.
Of course, my silence was no grand experiment. I simply decided to take the week off, mostly, as a reward for doing so well the last two months and didn't bother to blog about it. I also found it to be an exhaustive week. I am not enjoying the rewriting process. If it were edits, I'd enjoy the efforts much more because it's a sign of progress. These rewrites makes me feel like I'm starting over from scratch.
In reality, I am. The rewrite of the first chapter recycled mere sentences. It was 4500 words of completely new material that I had already written. Couple that disenfranchisement with my slowly growing exhaustion for the writing process as a whole and motivation has been low.
I doped up on caffeine all week and rewrote the second chapter. I did manage to save about 800 words, give or take. Scattered sentences mostly, but a few (not even requiring a full hand to count so few) paragraphs. The chapter ended with 5000 words, so I did manage over 4000 in new writing. A respectable week, but I really had to drag myself through it.
That's the main reason I didn't bother blogging. I just didn't care to write about it all, though this was potentially a mistake. I found myself looking for things to do all week, the least notable of which was all the napping. Taking so much caffeine has it's prices. I don't sleep well for long stretches and thus, I crash often in an effort to recoup the lost sleep.
I did manage to practice my reading aloud skills. I recorded myself reading Chapter One. I have a long way to go in that department. I don't relax enough or even breath enough while reading. I'll keep practicing. I have plenty of time before I need to start releasing any of this stuff. In fact, I can take as long as I want.
I'm looking forward to finishing the third chapter this week. With all the junk getting cut out, my first four chapters has become three. A none too unexpected byproduct of numerically cutting 8000 words. I am hopeful that as much as half of this last chapter will be salvageable. There are a number of things I liked in the presentation, so maybe it only needs more tweaking and less revision. We'll see over the next few days.
As Kim was attempting to poke my blog with a stick to check for survivors, she let me know that she was joining the blogosphere with her new blog: http://pollytickedoff2008.blogspot.com/
It is of a political nature for conservative women. She is the only friend I have that falls into such a demographic, so I doubt an endorsement from me will provide her with any readers, but I have done my duty in returning the shout out.