Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


For some reason immediately upon getting my job offer after graduation I bought a Ford Fusion Hybrid (ok, not immediately, demand on them way exceeds supply so every dealership had a long-ish wait). Why a fresh-out-of-college physicist who hates commuting and doesn't drive a lot outside of that would buy a car whose biggest plus is gas savings (and you'd probably need to drive a ridiculous number of miles for those to actually end up being cash-positive) is a good question, but one for a different post. What I want to talk about is how it has modified my driving behavior.

I am a rather impatient person and I used to be a rather impatient driver. I now drive more slowly (5 MPH above posted limits instead of 10+), accelerate much less quickly, and brake from a further distance (although I always had a pretty large braking distance, driving with people who don't is terrifying). All of these things because of the little meter on my dash that tells me my instantaneous fuel efficiency. The measurement is approximate for sure, but I can tell that when I floor it the number plummets, and when my speed is steady it's nice and high. And because the car keeps track of the numbers over the lifetime, there's an incentive to keep it high. People like to get high numbers, this is a manifestation of that weird drive.

Which brings me to my main point, we should put little doodads that show lifetime fuels use in all cars. That would be the best way to get people to change their driving habits to be more moderate (and hence safer) as well as save more fuel. Although I know I tend to look at the gauge too often, so maybe it'd increase distracted driving.

I'd like to see if cars that have those displays (my coworker's diesel car has one, so it's not just hybrids) tend to get above-average (for their cars) fuel mileage. Could be interesting.

Monday, April 19, 2010


One of the things I've been finding distressing lately is the general contempt Americans hold toward experts. You see this all the time in the media at large, most flagrantly when someone uses the word "elitist" in a derogatory sense. There are particular avenues where it's most pronounced, such as climate change and other controversial topics.

There seems to be this idea that all opinions are created equal. I'm not sure where it comes from, but if I were to hazard a guess it would be the idea that all people are created equal. From this it would follow that all our opinions and thoughts are equal, because we're all equals, right?

That's facile. We're not all equal. That statement is an ideal, not a fact. It should be blatantly obvious that we're not actually created equal. I had a much better chance of success (however defined) than someone born into a poor family. Demographics matter, far more than they should. But that's another topic.

Additionally it's a statement about rights. We are all equal in the eyes of the law (again, we're not actually, but that's another topic). It does not follow that our beliefs and opinions are all equal.

Why does this distress me? Because our national discourse suffers for it. When experts on health care say that our system needs these reforms and uninformed idiots prattle on about death panels it hurts us all. When experts on the financial system say we need to enact these regulations and uninformed idiots say the reforms will create bailouts in perpetuity it hurts us all. When experts on climate change say we need to enact policies to counter it and uninformed idiots prattle on about how warm it was last week it hurts us all. I could go on and on, picking topic after topic where there is widespread agreement among experts that something needs to be done (if not widespread agreement about exactly what) and the uninformed disagree based on nothing, nothing at all.

What really irks me about this, though, is how someone saying what I'm saying is generally viewed. I'm arrogant. I'm elitist. I'm condescending. This is exactly backwards. If you have spent your life studying a topic and someone who learned everything he knows about it from a 15-second segment on the local news comes up to you and starts lecturing you on it, who there is being arrogant? Who is being condescending? Believing you can formulate an opinion equivalent to someone who has spent a lifetime studying an issue, that is the height of arrogance.

But it doesn't matter. Because for some reason Americans think their opinion of health care is the same as John Cohn's, their opinion of financial reform is the same as Tim Geithner's, their opinion on climate change is the same as climate scientists. It is not. Learn some humility and admit that when it comes to topics you know nothing about your opinion means precisely as much as you know: nothing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I am going to start posting somewhat regularly again. Less reaction to the bullshit others are posting, more original writing. No real focus, just whatever I feel like. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hate politics

Just once you think politics can't get any more disgusting, someone goes and kills a bear and staples Obama signs on it, then dumps it on a NC campus.

A dead bear was found dumped this morning on the Western Carolina University campus, draped with a pair of Obama campaign signs, university police said.

Maintenance workers reported about 7:45 a.m. finding a 75-pound bear cub dumped at the roundabout near the Catamount statute at the entrance to campus, said Tom Johnson, chief of university police.

“It looked like it had been shot in the head as best we can tell. A couple of Obama campaign signs had been stapled together and stuck over its head,” Johnson said.

This is just disgusting. I honestly cannot believe how vile people can be. What's the message even supposed to be? I'm guessing along the lines of the sick bastards saying things like "kill him!" at McCain campaign rallies (there is just no way Obama supporters did this).

How about this doozie:

Leroy C. McLaughlin finished his workday on Friday and was cooking dinner when a family member phoned.

The 4-foot-by-8-foot Barack Obama campaign sign that McLaughlin had posted in the front yard of his Chesterfield County home was gone.

A Confederate flag hung in its place.

Simply unbelievable.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

15-year-old Sex Offender?

If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know that the ridiculous misapplication of sex laws to minors doing things to themselves/with other minors is something that infuriates me. So this story got my blood pressure up.

A 15-year-old girl is accused of distributing nude photos of herself to other minors, and one state legislator is questioning whether she should be labeled a sex offender.

The Licking Valley High School student was arrested Friday after school officials discovered the materials and brought in the school's resource officer for a police investigation.

After spending the weekend incarcerated, she pleaded deny Monday to both charges: illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony.

Look, I'm not going to defend what she did, kids shouldn't be doing that crap. But expecting them not to is absurd, given our culture (I'm not complaining about it, but it's a reality people have to face). What we should do in these cases is give a strong reprimand, make the parents know that they need to be in charge of their children, and leave it be. Punish repeat offenders, but even then be lenient. I just cannot fathom why these people think labeling some poor 15-year-old a sex offender and charging her with felonies is in any way productive. It's not, and ANY reasonable person will agree.

The good news is that it seems like she won't get that life-destroying label, but I still think that holding her over the weekend was a ridiculous overreaction. Best of luck to her (and all like her), they'll need it dealing with our fucked-up legal system.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I think they found step 2

This is simply brilliant. So brilliant I won't even quote it, he deserves the pageviews.

It's about the ADF's Freedom Pulpit (or whatever the crap the stupid scam was called) yesterday, and how it's just a giant stunt for them to get tons of money, whether or not they win.

If it's true, and that's how they actually think, I have to say they're damn clever. Much more so than I would have guessed, given that they're the ADF. But thinking about them in the business of scaring stupid gullible Christians into giving up their money, it's very elucidating. Maybe they don't believe their rhetoric, maybe they know it's a scam...

It would certainly restore some of my faith in humanity. (Restore it because I'd rather people exploit others than actually be idiots.)


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prayer poster

I just moved into my new dorm, and today coming back from work (research, more on that later) I noticed a couple of white sheets of paper on the door across the hall from me. It said something to the effect of:

Prayer list.

Put the things you'd like [myself and my roommate] to pray for, and we'll pray for them. Leave your name or be anonymous, God knows who you are.

I just don't know how to react. A part of me wants to do something destructive to it, but that's just counterproductive. A much bigger part of me wants to write something incredibly mean/offensive on it, something along the lines of, "Pray for you two to get some brains and realize that your religion is a fairy tail." Although I'd probably go for something more ironic, "Pray for a world without the institutionalized evil that is religion." (And really, who doesn't love irony?)

I'll probably just end up doing nothing (believe it or not, I don't actually like starting conflicts), but I'll definitely watch what people put up, I wouldn't be too surprised to see something like my comments, although frankly I'd put money on nothing serious being put up at all. My experience here says that very, very few people are religious. But who knows? My experience also says they tend to be clustered, last year I lived around a bunch of people who regularly went to church, whereas I'd known one in the previous two years. So maybe there will be a bunch of asinine, selfish prayer requests combined with the few "noble" gestures ("world peace!!!11 lol"), because, after all, we're concerned about people other than ourselves, right?


(As a PS, I wonder what would happen if I put something up on my door that was quite offensive to religious people. I'm thinking along the lines of "university personnel start to harass me". I bet that I would be targeted, while I'm doing nothing that they weren't. Yeah, seeing the stupid thing made me angry, but guess what


Am I back again?

I don't know if this new flurry of posting will last, but I am tired of writing about politics (every idiot is doing it, I have nothing new to say about anything), so now I'm getting ideas about other things, and I suppose I'll keep it up as long as it lasts. I'm just not fantastic at this whole blogging thing. But news posts coming, one immediately after this one.