Author Archives: brian

Hindsight

Hindsight motivational poster

But where’s the gunner and captain from the Star Destroyer who failed to fire on that escape pod with no life signs aboard? If you want a real fall guy…

via Amadis

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In Congress, July 4, 1776

Declaration of Independence (NARA image)

Declaration of Independence (National Archive)

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

Some 233 years ago, the founders of our nation put their lives, families, and fortunes at risk to pave the way for a noble experiment — a new nation based on the consent of the governed and recognizing as self-evident that we are all born with certain rights that must not be violated.

Since then we’ve weathered the challenges of political parties and partisan division, the influence of special interest groups of every stripe, and the full range of other challenges that face a nation.

Despite our differences, on this most holy day of our civic religion may we remember not to let our partisanship or our religious differences divide us. We took our first step as a people with differing political beliefs but united by a common cause: to exercise our birthright of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

After all this time, we still find we have differences. At times the discussion about them becomes shrill. But through it all we remain one nation.

Today of all days may we remember that despite our differences, we are all Americans.

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QotD: Doer of deeds

Theodore Roosevelt image“In the battle of life it is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt

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Palin, pregnancy, and sex education

0_61_palin_sarah.jpgThis post started life on a family forum thread, so apologies to the fam for repeating myself.

I associate with a number of people who don’t think that the media attention paid to Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy is fair. I’m a bit more conflicted because it points to an issue I have with Palin’s policies.

The thing is, Sarah Palin holds fiercely to sex education policies that I find horrifying. These are policies that I think will leave many of our children pregnant before they’re ready because rather than acknowledging that a large percentage of teenagers are sexually active, they tell kids to just say no. I’ve got no problem with teaching abstinence in schools but I think it’s irresponsible to only teach abstinence. Recognize that kids will experiment and provide them the tools they need to weather the hormonal storms.

Maybe I can put a more complete face on it this way… when my kids get to puberty, if they choose to experiment with sex or even become promiscuous, I want them to know how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and disease. I think this teaching is best addressed in the home, so that means I have to prepare to teach them about their options. I’d prefer they abstain, but if they don’t, I don’t want them to have to face the burdens of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease because they didn’t do what I taught them.

Palin’s abstinence-only take on sex education leaves all children whose parents aren’t willing to teach them about safer sex practices with no knowledge to protect themselves from disease or unwanted pregnancy should they decide not to abstain. Many parents won’t teach their children about sex, much less safe sex, so it falls to the schools. Given the early age of sexual initiation in the US, I think our kids deserve better than “just don’t do it” when studies show that a large percentage of our teenagers are sexually active.

In the end Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy isn’t especially important to me. The sticking point is that I strongly disagree with Palin’s stance on sex education and I think it’s dangerous for America. Kids will do what they will do despite what their parents teach them. I’m not going to say that Palin is a bad mom for choices her daughter has made. I just don’t want her pushing policies on other parents that will put their kids at risk of unwanted pregnancy.

While we’re on sex education… the McCain campaign has decided to make Obama out as a corrupter of youth because of his involvement in an Illinois bill that would teach kindergartners to beware of sexual predators. Obama was a member of the committee that deliberated it, didn’t sponsor it, voted for it, but it never moved beyond there.

How nice to know that the Republican candidates are opposed to helping our kids avoid child molesters… oh wait, now I’m distorting the truth.

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Fact checking

factCheckLogo.jpg
Apologies to those of you that have already heard me blab about this on Twitter, message boards, or elsewhere.

At the moment I just don’t feel I can say enough to point out and praise the Annenberg Foundation’s FactCheck.org site or their Fact Check Wire RSS feed.

The site is valuable in all seasons for its cutting through the spin on big issues, but is especially valuable with the election season upon us. Now that we’re in that magical time of year when political parties tend to stretch facts or in some cases put forth complete fabrications a little more often than they usually do.

Through a recent commercial, McCain “approved” the work of FactCheck, though rather ironically he did so while misrepresenting their work.

The latest five cases of facts gone wrong…

If anybody’s feeling like their candidate gets put upon in this list, just dig into the archive. While it seems to me McCain-Palin tend to twist the facts more often than Obama-Biden, you’ll find misrepresentations from both sides if you read through enough.

Happy checking!

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Eve no Jikan

"What do you think of me?"

A friend of mine’s always sending me information about new animes, from the start of this year he’s been up to the day on all the new tv series coming out in Japan. It appears there’s some very cool stuff coming out.

This week he told me about Eve no Jikan which is a web original series that just started coming out in Japan and is currently doing the fansub rounds. (Really hoping to see this hit DVD eventually.)

What catches my attention about this series is that it’s specifically about the relationship between human and machine. Like other personal favorites (Battlestar Galactica, Denno Coil), it contemplates what it means to be human and the nature of consciousness as it relates to man and machine. If machines become self aware, can we really consider them property any more? Can we say we have souls and they don’t when they show the same signs of self-reflection as we do?

What I like most about these kinds of stories is that in contrast to stories like The Matrix, there isn’t an instant supposition that the machines are out to destroy or subjugate us. It’s not just about man and machine coexisting either, but about whether we can benefit one another at a social and (for those that believe in the soul) perhaps spiritual level.

I’m interested to see where they co with Eve no Jikan. It appears that the Japanese tend to provide more space in their popular stories for machines to have a social and spiritual aspect. I’ve heard it suggested that this comes out of shinto belief, where all things have spirits tied to them. In such an environment, it’s only natural that everything from hearth to home to automobile to computer have a spirit of some kind. And if they have spirits, why should they not love, trust, hate, doubt, fear, and overcome the same as us?

In the end the machine is another expression of the other, of anything that isn’t us or isn’t like us. It strikes me as interesting that in American culture, where supposedly we welcome all (or we claimed to as a culture in times past) we have a tendency to write stories where the other is just evil, no discussion needed. Then we look at Japanese culture which is supposedly so strongly conformist and see a tendency to write stories where the other as good or ambivalent as we are and wants to be understood for what it is.

The other is asking us, “what do you think of me?”

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Our universe the bubbled-off child of parent universe

Cosmic microwave background image from NASA (via BBC)Via Warren Ellis

Background microwave radiation may point to the signature of a parent universe that gave birth to ours. Ellis has some cool commentary and a link to the BBC article where I nabbed the NASA photo.

So many interesting possibilities…

 

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