Monday, November 9, 2009

Time for Musical Monday!

Yay!  Today's random spin on the mystical shuffle wheel came up with "Wasted on the Way" by Crosby, Stills and Nash, off their Greatest Hits album.  The song was originally released as a single in 1982 and was included on their album Daylight Again that same year.  Off to the side there is the music player widget that will now play this song in addition to last Monday's song, and below are the lyrics:

"Wasted on the Way" - Crosby, Stills & Nash

Look around me
I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way it used to be

I am older now
I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started long before I did

And there's so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away

Oh when you were young
Did you question all the answers
Did you envy all the dancers who had all the nerve

Look round you now
You must go for what you wanted
Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved

So much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away

So much love to make up everywhere you turn
Love we have wasted on the way
So much water moving underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away
Let the water come and carry us away
Read more »

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Science vs. Religion: fight?

I have heard more than one atheist hold up the grand name of "science" as their be-all and end-all in support of their crusade against God.  Likewise, I've heard Christians holding up "the bible" as their be-all and end-all in their crusade for God.  Much of the time I just sit back and enjoy the show: their approaches to the debate in which they engage are so comically similar I can hardly believe they don't notice it themselves.  However, today I feel compelled to put my two-cents into the pot.

First of all, I want to remind any proponent of science that the process of science never proves anything.  Evidence is collected in an impartial manner and in such a way as to suggest one variable's effect on another, but when we attempt to generalize these findings to the world at large we must admit that there is a certain degree of error involved.  Of course, this error is often less than 5%, or 1% (as in, something is often very likely), but to ignore the error obscures what science really is.  Also, we must not forget that the theories developed are interpretations of this evidence.  Granted, they are interpretations that are subjected to vigorous testing and debate, and so carry a good deal of weight: however, do not forget that they are interpretations and label them as facts.
Read more »

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What makes death scary?

Is it the prospect of experiencing pain?  Is it the thought of never seeing loved ones again?  Is it uncertainty as to whether or not one is going to heaven?  Is it doubt about the existence of the afterlife?  Is the prospect of not existing simply scary?  Is it the thought that our death is inevitable and completely out of our control?  Is it biologically pre-programmed to encourage us to live and reproduce as long as possible?  Have I asked too many questions?  Yeah, I have; anyway, from what I've heard, pretty much any of the above, or more, can engender a fear of death.  And unfortunately, fear is not something so easily dispelled, even when we acknowledge that the fear is of something silly.  Yes, I'm calling the fear of death silly.

What I want is for you, and everyone, to think that a fear of death is silly.  Not profound, or deep, but silly.  I mean, fearing death because of pain is silly: living through a painful experience will prolong a pain that could be ended by death.  Death is a release from pain: biologically, your nerves have stopped working, and spiritually, you shed such mortal sentiments.  And you will see your loved ones again in the afterlife: that is, unless you've been a very bad girl or boy and you've only loved the pure of heart.  Or, suppose there is no afterlife: existence simply ends in death.  Contemplating such oblivion can be scary: however, when cease to exist, you lose your give-a-damn.  You stop caring about, thinking about, worrying about EVERYTHING.  Not having to think about, worry about, care about, or deal with anything sounds a lot better than the struggle of living: of course, you won't think so when you're dead because you can't even think about it.
Read more »

Friday, November 6, 2009

Capitalism vs. Communism, part 2

(Continued from Capitalism vs. Communism, part 1, picture found on The Public Choice Capitalist)

Last week, I began this discussion by talking about how both communist and capitalist societies deal with resource scarcity.  Today, I want to talk about power: specifically, who holds it?  In communist societies, the ideal is that nobody holds the power.  Everyone does their job, and provides the fruits of their labor willingly to whoever needs it.  Likewise, everyone takes whatever they need from whoever produces it.  However, on a scale larger than a small town, this becomes very difficult: how to you organize the transportation of food from the country to the city, for instance?  How do you determine how much of every resource is needed to keep everyone supplied with their necessities?  How do you deal with thieves, murderers, or people who refuse to give their product or service to one or more individuals?  Enter the government: a body of officials whose job it is to organize the efforts of the populace into a cohesive, functioning machine.

As we have seen in pretty much every communist society to date, the government holds a great deal of power.  It controls the production and distribution of products.  It makes and enforces the laws.  It handles foreign relations.  It handles education.  What doesn't it do?  This is starting to sound like a bad infomercial: buy yours today!  Question is, does the government need to handle these things?  I would argue that it does: at least, a central organizing body is necessary for production and distribution.  A central organizing body is necessary for law and order.  A central organizing body is necessary for education, and ensuring that all necessary jobs are filled (tying into production and distribution).  Who better than the government?
Read more »

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We are America: What Can We Do?

(Picture taken from johnzQuotes5)

Every day I try to think of something relevant and significant to talk about, because every day I want to say something that will make at least one person think critically about some aspect of the world and how they fit into it.  Today's entry was inspired by a post I read yesterday called Something's Broken... on the blog Freedom of Thought.  This talks about the plight of the homeless in the United States and urges people to get up and do something to help those who lack and are struggling to survive.

This point hit me a little hard.  I have come to desire greater freedoms, smaller government and less taxes: however, when looking at the pictures of the homeless (especially one man, curled up in a city corner, mostly buried in snow) I thought to myself, "What should we do?  Who should be responsible?  How can this be fixed?"

As I'm sure you've all heard, as an individual person we are less than a blip in the sea of 300 million Americans (United States), and even less in the sea of 6.7 billion people worldwide.  My thoughts have stayed confined to the United States for the time, as it is my home country, but they also can be applied to the world at large.  Please listen.  I'm sure you've heard the like before, but does it make them less true?  These are my thoughts:
Read more »

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Racist are we in the United States?

Is this doll racist?

Whether intentionally or not, I think so: it plays upon a derogatory stereotype of black people.  Without any information on the doll and what it's designers were thinking, I cannot say whether or not this was influenced by some amount of racist ideology or whether they just need someone who lives in the real world screening their ideas.

Is this picture racist?

I'm sure many if not most of you are familiar with this incident already; however, I can find no article detailing why the test "black people stole my car" appeared as a better suggestion.  We are all familiar with the stereotype that black people are criminals, and many people think that this stereotype had something to do with it.
Read more »

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do you have a right to your own behavior?

Is the answer,

a) Yes!
b) No!
c) Well, within reason, I guess...
d) That's a stupid question and you're stupid for asking it!

Believe it or not, I'm going with (d).  When you think about it, what does the word "right" mean in this case?  I'll consult the dictionary to eliminate some semantics argument:

right [rahyt]
18. a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral: You have a right to say what you please.
19. Sometimes, rights. that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.: women's rights; Freedom of speech is a right of all Americans.

While I do not think that people should not be able to exercise their "rights" I think the word itself is bullshit and that it encourages people to develop a mindset of entitlement.  When you have rights, you strut about with your chest puffed out, thinking "I can XXX and you can't stop me because you're not allowed!"  In all reality, many people are perfectly capable of violating your rights at any time, and just because they don't we somehow believe our rights are more secure than they really are.  Secondly, the idea of "rights" encourages the notion that these things are mandated by some power greater than ourselves.  This is not true: it is we as humans who 1) decide what our rights are, 2) work to preserve our rights, and 3) deny others whatever rights they think they should have.  Rights are a construct of mankind.  Speaking in terms of rights only clouds the true issue being discussed.
Read more »

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Time for Musical Monday!

And thus I begin what may become a tradition of posting and commenting on a particular song every Monday.  Because, let's face it, Monday is never music to our ears, so we need all the help we can get :-)

After spinning the mystical shuffle-wheel on my laundry list of songs, todays song has been picked: The Ol' Beggars Bush, by Flogging Molly, off of their album Swagger.  Posted in the widgets is the song itself, and posted below are the lyrics:
Read more »

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why you should never play by the rules

            I have a friend Alex; we met freshman year of college as hallmates.  My roommate and I became good friends with each other and Alex, and so, quite naturally, Alex all but lived in our dorm room.  Alex had a funny way of showing his affection: his philosophy on friendship went something like “When you first meet someone, you act nice and see what they’re like.  Once you get to know them, you abuse them until they go away or become a good friend”.  Yes, both Adam and I were abused.

            Alex abused us each differently.  Adam, who was relatively passive and unflappable, received sporadic attacks from Alex, amounting to physical abuse (all in good fun, of course :-).  This wouldn’t have worked on me: I would have responded.  So, Alex abused me differently: he broke my mind.

            I love to debate nearly everything.  Alex found this out quickly.  At that time, however, I thought differently: you could say that my thoughts were tiny cubes, which lived in square-pegged holes.  He would engage me in debate, fill my head with nice, cubic thoughts, then proceeded to forcibly hammer cylindrical thoughts into my nice square thought holes.  In response, my mind contorted into impossible shapes, and you would be able to hear the circuits in my head fusing as smoke poured out my ears.
Read more »

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What do I want?

Hello all.  This is Saturday’s update, but I’m actually writing it Friday afternoon: tomorrow will be busy.  To take the heaviness of the last two posts down a notch, I want to talk about something that happens to all of us, and to me about an hour ago: I could not think of what to do.  I have reached a point of pause in a large project I am completing, and I am not scheduled for work this afternoon so my options are pretty much endless.  How is it that I could not find anything to do?

So what did I do?  Of all things, I sat down and thought about why I could think of nothing to do.  And, as it quickly became apparent, this was not at all the case: I was thinking of several things to do, and systematically rejecting them.  I thought about finding a party for tomorrow (today), but hesitated because I haven’t seen these friends for a while, I don’t like situations where I don’t know many people, and I haven’t completed my costume (out of a desire to not spend money).  I thought about working out, but I was feeling lazy.  I thought about embarking upon the next stage of the project, but I want to talk with my advisor before proceeding.  And the list goes on.
Read more »

Friday, October 30, 2009

Capitalism vs. Communism, part 1

The range of possible things I could say on this topic is nigh endless, and both your time and mine is valuable.  So, I will begin at the beginning, and end at a reasonable place, and save whatever remainder for another day.

At the fundamental core of this debate is the question of human nature.  How do we behave?  How dependent is our behavior upon our upbringing or our genetics?  These are, admittedly, questions to which I do not have the answer.  Well, noboby does: if someone knew the answer to the nature/nurture debate, a substantial number of psychologists would be out of a job.  However, I have an idea of what the answer might be, at least for the purposes of this debate.

I think that people are greedy by nature.  This is seen in children, who need to be taught not to snatch, to share, that all they see is not theirs...very basic stuff.  If we look at other primate societies, there is a well established pecking order in which the top monkey has first pick of whatever there is to be picked.  From a genetics perspective, this makes sense: our "prime directive" so to speak is to pass on our DNA.  Long story short, this leads to a slew of competitive behaviors even in fundamentally cooperative societies.  Ok, you don't buy the genetics argument: imagine a company has one position and one hundred people applying for it.  Imagine a ballet troupe has one position and one hundred people vying for it.  Imagine an auction house has one (particular) painting and one hundred people bidding on it.  I could go on.  The point is, where ever there is scarcity there will be competition.  And there will always be scarcity.

Read more »

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The newspaper is a great starting place for ideas.

Even just glancing through the front page articles, there's bound to be at least one that touches upon something easy to talk about.  Today, it's an article in The Wall Street Journal about where the responsibility for a person's prescription drug use lies.  The article, by Amy Merrick, first talks about an incident in which a woman suspected of abusing painkillers hit two people at the side of the road, killing one and severely injuring the second.  Now, let me ask you: who is responsible for this unfortunate accident?

According to the lawsuit filed Mr. Martinez (the injured man), his family and the family of the deceased (Mr. Sanchez), Wall Mart is responsible.  Because the woman (Patricia Copening) bought her painkillers from their pharmacy, it is they who should be responsible for the accident.

At this point, I'm thinking something along the lines of, "WTF?"  And, the article goes on to say that this is "part of a broader movement under way to place more responsibility for patients' prescription-drug use on pharmacies."  Do you know what I think?  I think that Wall Mart is capable of paying much more in damages than Ms. Copening.  You do the math.

Read more »

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Break out the champagne!

And let's toss the bottle straight into the hull of this barely fledgling blog.  Right now I feel like I have moved into a new house: the site is completely barren, and I can almost see tumbleweed blowing through the space where posts ought to be.  I also feel like a kid in a candy store: as my first blog, I'm eagerly exploring the various options that managing such a site entails.  I by and large haven't the slightest idea of what I am doing, but I figure that actually attempting to do it will teach me faster than simply thinking about it.

This blog is currently without a central purpose: I plan to post regular entries here on thoughts I have in my head at the time.  So, you may end up reading strange posts raving about politics or obscure philosophy: while I try not to make comments on politics when I'm ill-informed, I probably will anyway.  I will pull no such punches with philosophical topics, as I believe that the only facts that can be found in the field of philosophy are simply what philosophers have already said.  Some others may post here as well in the future; for now, dear reader, you are stuck with me.

Read more »