Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where are their holidays? Other people also protect our freedoms, right?

Now that it's after Memorial Day and the worst of the chatter is over, I'm going to say, as I do every year, that I find it a little silly that people praise soldiers more than any other group for keeping us free.

Here are some other people, right off the top of my head, that I can think of who are at least as responsible for keeping us free as soldiers.

Police.  This should be evident.  Hard to be free without good social order.

Teachers.  Again, evident.  Teachers are one of the groups of people who are responsible for teaching our children the blessings and responsibilities of liberty.  Soldiers are not in our classrooms, day in and day out, for the inglorious and poorly paid primary education positions that are vital for the continuation of a free society.

Protesters.  Every expansion of liberty in the United States came about because someone decided to make an issue of it.  The struggle against slavery, universal emancipation, worker's rights, racial and gender equality.  You name it, it's protestors who did it.  Fredrick Douglass, Susan Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., these people faced tremendous difficulties to create and expand the reach of freedom.

Lawyers.  Many of the liberties we hold dear were not won on the battlefield, but in the courtroom.  This goes back to the writing of the Constitution, itself, largely the world of James Madison, who was a lawyer.

Writers.  I'm going to throw a bone to myself, I guess.  But writers have inspired people all over the world to seek freedom and whenever you look at a group of people fighting oppression, there are a bunch of writers who are all up in it, creating the moral and intellectual arguments for defiance of tyranny.  This goes from Thomas Paine, through guys like Alexander Solzhenitsyn right up to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Others could be added to this list, all of whom are at least as important as soldiers for creating and maintaining freedom, many of whom have and continue to face tremendous persecution, violence and death in their struggles for freedom, all over the world - but many others who toil in difficult circumstances in ignomy, without any glory at all.

Where are their holidays?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My bike vs. my trike

Now that I've had the recumbent bicycle a couple of days, I can run down the benefits of each!

Benefits of the recumbent bicycle relative to my recumbent trike:

1.  It's lighter.  But about ten pounds - 32 pounds for the bike, 42 for the trike, before throwing the other garbage on it.

2.  It's easier to manhandle.  It's around the dimensions of an upright bicycle.

3.  You can use normal bike racks for transportation.  Which is nice.

4.  It can easily be brought inside the house for security and protection from the weather.

Advantages of the recumbent trike over the bicycle:

1.  I can ride it.

Like, whoa, riding a recumbent bicycle is more than a little weird.  After three days, I have finally gotten to the point where I can ride a little bit in a straight line.  Leaning back and keeping your balance is . . . well, I'm not used to it.  But to go at all, you've got to lean back, as far back as you'd be in a recliner, and pedal outward, not down.  So, my balance is weird and I don't know where to put my feet.  I thought my experiences with trike would help me - I'm used to leaning down and pedalling out! - but that turns out not to be the case.  So I suppose I should put down the rest of the advantages the trike has over the bike, hehe.

2. More comfortable - only by a little, the trike is more comfortable.

3. More cargo space.  Important since I want to use the bike/trike to pop down to the store.

4. More stable.  No balance required.  Get on and go, every time.  Which also means there is basically no hill you can't go up so long as you can go up it even a little.

I've heard that some of the problems with my particular recumbent can be fixed by getting wider, softer tires.  It is currently running a 26" x 1.25" in back and a 20" x 1.25" in the front at 80 psi.  If I go wider tires - 1.75", used in mountain bikes and BMX bikes for back and front - and go down to 60 psi, I hear the stability goes up considerably.

But right now, there is no way I can use the recumbent bicycle to ride.  But I came up with a solution to keep the trike - after getting the recumbent!  Bad timing, I know.  Some of it is things some people have suggested, too, so I'm sorry for not having listened more!  Ego is a sonofabitch.

For security, I'm going to use this nearly indestructible chain to attack it to a tree in back of our house, and attach the chain to the bike with a u-lock that has an alarm - so if it's disturbed, it sets out a wail.  To protect it from the weather, well, I'll get a cover.  Duh, right?  Then right by the tree, I'll get some gravel and bricks and shovel some stakes and 1 x 4s and make a little porch for it.  If we get really lousy weather, tropical storms or what have you, we can go through the effort of bringing the bike indoors.

While in general, I'm still very much pro-bents, this experience has moved me more towards being pro-bent trikes as being stupid easy to use relative to bent bikes, that have a fairly steep learning curve.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Melendez v tThompson III and bad judging in MMA with added eye pokes

I'm not really happy with the way Melendez v Thompson III went down.  Not necessarily that Melenedez won - I expected that, indeed, I expected Melendez to dominate Thompson but that is far from what happened because I thought Thompson won that fight (so did one judge).  But because Thompson got eye poked three times

In Melendez's corner was Jake Shields, who in his fight with Georges St-Pierre, poked GSP at least five times.  After the third round, you can clearly hear GSP in the corner saying, "I can't see out of my left eye."  By the end of the fight, he couldn't see much out of his right eye, either.

So, here's the frustrating part: how often does a guy have to get poked in the eye before a ref takes a point off?  And why are people who train with Jake Shields such eye gouging bastards?  (I can't really blame Cesar Gracie, as much as I might want to.  The Diaz brothers don't do eye pokes.)

This is a serious issue, way worse than nearly any other foul in MMA, because of the fragility of eyes.  But for lesser fouls, points would be deducted.  The third time you kick a dude in the nuts?  They're taking a point.  Same for cage holding, or holding the other guy's shorts or whatever.  With any other foul, three times is almost always when they take away a point.  But in Melendez v Thompson III, Gil poked Thompson three times and the ref gave Gil a warning after the third poke.

To add insult to injury, after none of these eye pokes did the ring doctor come out and make sure, y'know, that Thompson's eyes were okay.  It's hard not to regard ring-side doctors as being somewhere below junkie whores in terms of trustworthiness.  Still, this is their fucking job.  It's an important job, because no fighter admits to being unable to fight.  (So, for instance, in the very next fight, Josh Barnett broke his hand in the first round and kept fighting for four more rounds.  GSP did not even alert anyone but his corner to the fact he was blind in one eye.  Toughness is a prized trait among fighters, they are usually unwilling to admit to any weakness.  Which is why we have these doctors, right?)

That's disgraceful.  Just disgraceful.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bad Science Journalism over at io9

This article on io9 basically sums up, to me, both everything that is wrong with science journalism as well as experimental psychology.  The reason?  The subject matter of the article is just . . . well, I have no idea how it could have possibly met a peer review's standards, albeit my experience with the process is both secondhand and having to do with real science.

But the thrust of the article is that religion helps self-control and virtue.  The problem comes with the specific tests they use that they believe tests self-control and virtue.

One of them is a person's ability to drink shots of orange juice and vinegar for a nickle a shot.  The second is testing their delayed gratification by giving them five dollars today but six dollars if they wait a week.  The third had to do with how long a person was willing to spend solving an insolvable puzzle.

I can't imagine how any of these have anything to do with virtue.  Virtue is a moral stance - there is no morality in any of these actions.  No one is either helped or harmed by their performance or lack of performance.

I am also having any trouble seeing how they have much to do with self-control because . . . they are all so trivial.  Is self-control the ability to down undrinkable drinks for a pittance?  Or sticking with a problem that can't be solved but also has no bearing to a person's life?  Not drinking a horrible drink, even though you might pick up as much as twenty cents, does not define self-control, but . . . intelligence.  There is no gain in drinking it and it's uncomfortable, even nauseating.  Performing a pointless task for no gain is no self-control - stopping a pointless task for no gain is, again, just the smart thing to do.

The only thing that speaks to self-control, and very weakly at that, is the delayed gratification test.  But it's hamstrung by the small rewards offered for delaying that gratification.  "Give me five bucks now or . . . I wait a week, have to schlep myself over to the psych building so I can get another buck?"  That's weak because none of the people involved need that extra dollar today (because it is such a superficial sum of money that it's possession would not particularly help even a starving person - that starving person would be better off taking the fiver and getting something to eat *now*.)  So, if there is no gratification, there can be no delayed gratification.

(The subject with this whole business is these cats are evolutionary psychology guys, which is, itself, an embarrassment to science because of how normative it is.)

That's the bad science.  Now the bad journalism.  The journalist mentions none of this, that should be obvious, I feel, to a science journalist.

Worse, neither mention some very uncomfortable facts about the correlation between godlessness and self-control that would, I think, bear discussion.  Such as the fact that atheist or agnostics tend to be richer, better educated, have fewer unwanted pregnancies, divorces and bankruptcies than religious people.  And as speaks to virtue, they are far less likely to be in prison, which suggests that they don't commit as many crimes.  This is a nonsuperficial point that is not discussed, not at all.

Like I said, the problem with both research psychology (broadly, that they continue to allow crap like evo psych to be part of their field) and science journalism (total lack of criticism).