Monthly Archives: November 2005

Two Men and a Baby

I just came about this deeply disturbing feature on Wired News: How Two Men Could Make a Baby.

Alright, let’s get this straight. I am not some whackjob anti-science fundamentalist. I grew up in California; I am perfectly fine with gay people. Hell, I am even for gay marriage. (Wait a second, aren’t I supposed to be right-wing? And the answer to that, my friends, is that I am 18 years old, and I am what I like to call a “Next-Generation Conservative.”)

But this! I don’t care what anybody else says, this is deeply disturbing. Babies aren’t supposed to be made this way! You can make the case that even in nature, we see homosexuality, but you can’t make the case that we ever see two male animals making a baby!

Go ahead, call me old-fashioned, even call me a bigot. But this isn’t an issue of freedom or equality. There’s no enshrined constitutional right to have a kid. (And if you want a kid, there’s this perfectly fine thing called adoption.) This is about a little tiny voice inside me that says this is just wrong and science will have gone too far if it does this.

Science shouldn’t do this. Period. I don’t care if I have no “rational” basis for this argument. I don’t need one, just like I don’t need any rational reason for thinking killing is wrong, not that those two are in any way morally equivalent. It just is, and I think most Americans will agree with me. However, by all means, leave a comment if you disagree.

Expressing Serious Concern

This article isn’t very interesting by itself, N.Korea says CNN execution image fabricated, but I found one part hilarious: “A UN General Assembly committee on November 17 adopted a resolution expressing serious concern about the state of human rights in the secluded state.”

Uh oh, North Korea, you better shape up! I mean, next thing you know, they might adopt another resolution! And maybe they could even express “extreme” concern!

It reminds me of the scene in Team America: World Police where Kim Jong Il asks Hans “Brix” what will happen if he doesn’t let him search his palace. (We will be very very angry and write you a letter.)

Risk and the Decline of America

When’s the last time you saw a good movie? No, I mean a good movie. Yeah, and once you got that down, let me eliminate it to a good movie. Not a musical, or book.

We live in an age of horrible movies. We live in a world of remakes and sequels. The question is why and the answer is simple: Risk-aversion. Giant studios spend so much money on one flick that they want to make sure it’s a success. So, they see that if one movie has worked, they better make a sequel. Even though we all know the sequel is always worse than the original, we all see it anyway, otherwise they wouldn’t keep making sequels. It’s because we all know that movie studios keep putting out shit, so we watch the sequels because they’re a lesser evil.

The giant studios, increasingly consolidated, stifle creativity, put out commercial movies that no one likes, and is bewildered when we don’t like them. Instead of encouraging creativity, they’ve learned to further crush it by making sequels, remakes, and basing movies off books and, a recent trend, musicals.

What’s happening with movies is symptomatic of a larger trend in America. Risk-aversion and the consolidation of companies. And it’s destroying America just like it has destroyed the movie experience. Movie audiences decline more and more each year.

How many tries did it take for Edison to get the lightbulb right? Hundreds. What if he had just been a cog in a large multi-national corporation and they told him it wasn’t worth it to pursue this lightbulb business?

Granted, this example is quite a stretch. Companies still spend money on AIDS research, for example. However, I believe that we need a modern day trust-buster, like Theodore Roosevelt. Instead, we have theories of neo-liberalism that say globalization is good for everyone. Giant corporations are proponents of the status quo. The gas companies have every stake in maintaining our current infrastructure and no real reason to invest in petroleum alternatives. And, they have the money, because they’re so big, to seduce the government into doing its bidding. Look where it has got us: Leading to a major energy crisis. Large corporations won’t give us radical change.

What we need are small businesses. Small businesses that have flexibility. Small businesses that have the possibility to fail. Yes, that’s what we want. We need market pressures to put out wide varieties of products, and we need the losers to fail. There’s no such thing as competition is no one loses. What it does do is keep people on their toes, and it forces further innovation, instead of maintaining the status quo, as we saw with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Before IE had totally dominated the browser market, innovation was occuring, and Netscape and IE were updating their software. After IE won the browser wars, we still are waiting on IE 7. If the browser market consisted of competition between small businesses instead of one giant company using its might to maintain the status quo, imagine the innovations we could’ve seen.

We also need colleges to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, and, most importantly, risk. Instead, we are given an environment where students have little opportunity and time to experiment. They’re lectured at and forced to memorize material, instead of being taught and learning anything. Or (not in college) when they are given an opportunity to do something, it’s something dumb like an egg-drop that doesn’t have anything to actually do with applying the material.

All students experiment with in college are sex, drugs, and alcohol. You know why? Because you’re not teaching us anything useful! We learn not to learn. We learn to game the system and skid by without putting forth any effort. We’ll do the exact same things in our jobs. We’ll be inefficient lawyers and doctors. This is the future, America!

We’re learning that money is everything! You go to college to get a good job and there are only certain types of jobs you should have. Whatever happened to the American Dream? It’s become “be upper middle-class,” and the corporations helped do it to us. Most Americans would like to be their own boss, but entrepreneurship is not encouraged anymore. And whatever happened to the day and age when parents would’ve liked to have seen their kids become president? What weak aspirations have they for their children now?

We look at China and wonder how they’re doing so well. We think our kids would learn more in such a harsh school environment. Our education lags, and we think, “Oh, it would be nice to do that, but our kids would hate it and it would stifle creativity.” Let America be America! Truly encourage creativity and individualism, not this facsimile of it where all kids get is more free time to waste. They have nowhere else to put their creative energy except into their vacuous Xanga’s and MySpace’s. Internships/apprenticeships have become playgrounds for the rich and privileged… just another thing for their college application.

America has kept its edge in the global market because of constant innovation. If other countries catch up in manufacturing, well, then, we can’t have a manufacturing economy anymore, can we? And so, we’ve strayed from that. Unfortunately, the edge in innovation is going away. We’ll see our schools become more like other countries, and yet we’ll still be behind. You know why? Because we’re not other countries! We’re America! We have our values and our values work, when they’re allowed to flourish. Our children needn’t become automatons to succeed in the global market. Our children need to be taught that risk is okay (grading needs to be completely overhauled), or else all we’ll see the next (my) generation produce are commercial equivalents of sequels and remakes, and watch other countries speed by as they make better sequels and better remakes.

Some people may say the issue is more complicated than this, but you’re missing the point. Innovation is what will keep America ahead in the global market, and that can only occur when children are taught that risk is okay. And if you disagree, tell me, when’s the last time you saw a good movie?

Why Thanksgiving Is Better Than Christmas

When’s the last time I did a list-log? I completely forgot about the utility of these.

  • No annoying songs
  • No horrible TV specials
  • Football
  • No lying to children
  • Christmas gets less magical as you get older
  • Thanksgiving gets better with age
  • Easier to ignore certain relatives
  • No shopping (no parking!)
  • Less decorating
  • It’s only one day
  • No burn-out from having to deal with it since after October
  • Turkey
  • Less rigamarole

Thanksgiving so close!

Aaahhh! I can’t wait to take off! I live for that. Hooray airplanes.

But first, essay… euch… blech… yuck… AAAHHH! I gotta finish gotta finish gotta… stay up so long just finish… don’t think just keep going… aaaaahhhhhhhh… I hope I finish.

Registration Rush

This morning, at 7:00, the workaholic, obsessed, over-achieving freshman at JHU (which means all of them) woke up to register for classes as early as possible. God, fuck that shit. I slept. No wonder I want to transfer. You kids drive me crazy. No, I’m not the crazy one! You all are!

Medium School

They put a new TV in Megabytes, the grease factory, today. Only this TV is equipped with an N64. They explained with a sign indicating that this was “old-school” and we should enjoy the memories.

Sega Genesis is old-school. SNES is old-school. NES is old-school. N64 is not old-school. If that’s old school, then I’m old. I’m not old. Obviously, it was put there by old people who don’t understand what old school means. When the Nintendo Revolution comes out, maybe, just maybe, you can call N64 old-school.

I Want To Be President

I remembered that I wanted to be president. I had forgotten that. I had lost sight of it. Now, I remember. I remember how much I love America, and how much I want to help the American people. I remember how I want to help set America on the right track, after seeing what our current president is doing to our great country. I remember, and I don’t want to ever let myself forget it again.

Find Your Little Group? How About No.

Someone told me not too long ago that I need to find my little group and just stick with them. Then, perhaps I won’t be so unhappy here.

How about no. I don’t want to be stuck in some little clique. Yes, it’s okay to have a small circle of friends, but I also want to be connected to the larger community! Don’t you people understand that? Or are you too wrapped up in your studies?

The Decline of the Grocery Store Clerk

I remember sophomore year when Ms. Armstrong introduced me to the strike situation going on with the grocery store clerks. I was very sympathetic. Yet, during one trip to a grocery store (after this was over, I think), I thought, “Wait a second, all of these people aren’t going to have jobs in 5-10 years anyway.” The grocery store clerk was going to disappear. I thought they would perhaps be replaced by RFID.

Well, it didn’t happen quite the way I thought it would. Self-checking is so prevalent these days. Half of the counters were self-checking at a grocery store I went to today.

It’s taking less time than I thought it would.

Isn’t it odd? Does anyone notice these things? Does anyone notice how in the span of a few years we went from practically no self-checking to so many self-checking stations? Does anyone not take these things for granted?

It looked so odd, so foreign to me. I felt like a time traveller in a futuristic world. I saw a young infant watching his parent use the self-checking thing. Beep. It recited the price in a robotic voice. I thought about how this child will take this kind of thing for granted. Since he’s been alive, the internet has always existed. He’ll grow up in a world where grocery store clerks will not exist.

I, for one, still refuse to use self-checking. I want someone to wait on me.

The Riotous Question No One Thinks to Ask

Regarding the riots in France, I think the main question is: Do these people want to be French?

The mythocrats on both sides assume an answer based on their ideology, but no one is taking the time to really think this thing out. This question matters because it determines everything about how you should go about solving the problem. It says whether you need a heavy-handed approach or not. It says what you need to do about immigration and assimilation.

It’s a legitimate question to ask. And it’s a legitimate question to ask all immigrants of all countries.

You can run in little circles all you want about how this problem came about, but you’ll never solve the problem until you answer that question.

If It Ain’t Broke, and If It Is

I really really hate it when people fix what ain’t broke in order to hide the fact that they aren’t fixing the things that are broke.

Example 1: At Terrace cafeteria, they put the shitty food in nice-looking buffet-style metal containers. What utter rubbish. There’s such a disconnect that it makes the food taste worse. What’s more, there were no plates anywhere! I’m not sure if it’s because of the time I was there, general incompetence, or maybe that the new fancy-schmancy food containers left no room to put the plates. And the food still tastes gross.

Example 2: Locks on the bathroom doors. I need a key to get inside my bathroom. Evidently this is supposed to be some security measure. I find it an inconvenience measure. The trade-offs aren’t worth it in terms of security. So, we’ve got stall doors that won’t work, and they decide to give us locks we don’t need on the outside door. Brilliant.

A Mirrored Drained Life

I saw something the other day at dinner that convinced me that I want to leave Johns Hopkins. I saw Sarah at dinner after not having seen her for a while. When I met her earlier in the year, she was really excited about meeting new people, as I was.

During dinner, she was much more subdued. She was thinking about transferring, as I am. It was so odd to see her like that… it seemed as if Hopkins had sucked the life-force out of her. And I think it has done the same to me. I wonder if that’s how I appear. Although, I tend to show my sorrows a little differently: bitter cynicism.

Still, it was a lesson learned. I’m not the only one who feels this way. It’s not just me; it’s this place. By coming here and hating it, I’ve learned to appreciate California that much more. Then again, she’s a local. I guess it’s just Hopkins.

But you can see why I’ll do better if I go to a different place, right? Here, I can’t achieve anything because I’ll never be motivated enough. If I only get good grades and do nothing else, I’ll feel that I’ve wasted four years of my life. I’m not sure how I’ll manage to not waste one year of my life.

Gotcha Hypocrisy

After explaining to a friend the other day about how I hate “gotcha” politics, I played the gotcha game today.

It was at the debate between College Republicans and College Democrats. I wasn’t debating, but they opened the floor up for questions.

After noting how the Democrats had agreed that US intervention was needed in cases such as genocide, I asked them, “How would you respond to a hypothetical situation where a dictator from the Middle East is using mustard gas on Kurds and filling mass graves?”

I feel very guilty afterwards, but I will admit, I loved doing it at the time. Am I a hypocrite, or only human?

Please, Kill Some Fucking Trees

Moving everything to the web is dumb. I like to read paper better than a screen. It’s easier to navigate. The one thing you can’t do with a web document is peruse, and if I’m looking for classes to take, maybe I’d like to peruse.

God, this would be spending the money on something useful, unlike locks to get into the bathroom. Honestly, sometimes it’s okay to kill some trees because it seems to me that this wasn’t exactly an eco-conscious decision but just a cost-cutting, lazy decision.

Switch everything over to the web and we’re going to see a giant gap between poor and rich kids. Granted, this isn’t a problem at a college where I’m obviously not getting my money’s worth, but it is a problem for society at large. Internet access and a computer cost money. Going to the library costs time and convenience. If I have to make a trek to play piano, I’m obviously not going to play piano as often as if I have one in my house.

A Failure of Pluralism

Because of my sociology class, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about race. When I heard about the Muslim riots in France, I instantly thought of black riots in the US. It’s definitely not a stretch to compare the two. The main direct cause of these riots is economic frustration. What causes this economic frustration? A lack of social mobility.

Why does this occur? Residential segregation. We have riots because of residential segregation. The in-between steps are important, but this is something really key.

Blacks were forced into ghettos because of white racism. Blacks never integrated into white culture because of racism. (I can go into this further, but I just want an overall general view of my thoughts now. I’m not writing an essay at this point.)

In France, the Muslims live in particular neighborhoods. Whatever the reason, they were not integrated into French culture.

I see the root cause as a problem of assimilation. Blacks and Muslims didn’t integrate into the predominant culture, and were denied opportunities to succeed economically.

I realize I don’t know enough about France to say anything definitively, but, as a conservative, my first instinct is to blame multiculturalism. By opening your gates to any and all immigrants, sheer numbers will hamper assimilation. Segregation of cultures, coupled with economic inferiority of one group, within a country will produce conflict.

It’s not about preserving “white” culture. It’s about preserving the American character and French culture. It’s about economic mobility and social stability.

There’s so much more to say about this, so I’m going to eat lunch, think about it more, and write either today or tomorrow.

But first, I want to say that any study of this will be problematic because France doesn’t collect data on race. Bad choice, France. That’s why we must continue to collect data on race in the US.

The Best Time in Physics

I remember the most fun I had in AP Physics was when Nobes helped us calculate what would happen if all the people in the world jumped at the same time. Okay, so it doesn’t quite match the rockets and such, but it is definitely hilarious and stands out the most in my mind at this point in time, for some reason.

Priming Loan Officers and Resume Checkers

Studies say that those hiring for jobs are more likely to choose a person with similar credentials who has a white-sounding name more than a person with a black-sounding name. Loans are more likely to be approved for the white middle class than the black middle class.

I think it was in Blink that I first learned about a certain type of priming. When primed with positive images of blacks, such as MLK, people were less likely to associate blacks with negative stereotypes. I wish I could remember the exact words, but I didn’t take the book with me to college. I’ll have to revisit this issue later.

Anyway, what if we primed loan officers and such with racially positive images? Of course, it wouldn’t solve problems of structural racism, but it’s a small measure that can go a long way towards solving a problem.

There are a minority who would call this priming itself racist, but I think it would be a good thing. I wonder what scientific tests would show.

The Creative Work of My Peers

Reading the pieces of my fellow Intro to Fiction and Poetry classmates brings a really queer feeling. I can hear their voices when I read their pieces. I’ve never experienced this before. I enjoy it. It makes the stories that much more interesting, even though I know they are not finished, professional prose. I wonder if I can ever write a story where I hear my own voice.

Shawn McDonald… Revolutionary?

My little write-up about shower curtain apparently attracted a whole bunch of attention. It’s my fault the shower curtains got replaced. I feel so important. Like, so amazingly important, it’s ridiculous. I never really understood the appeal of counterculture before. But now, now I realize the wonderful high you get from sticking it to The Man. Fight the power. I will continue to fight. Ahaha, maybe when I’m done with this school, I won’t have to transfer.

Questions and Racism

We were learning about residential segregation in Sociology today. Boy, I sure loved the questions somebody was asking at the end of class. Keep asking them! I’m sure if you try to bait the professor enough, racism will cease to exist!

Get real. Denying the existence of racism doesn’t make it go away. And bringing up racism against other groups doesn’t make racism against one group any less real.